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Life is a tragic folly 
Let us laugh and ~ 
Away with melan< 
Bring me a bran^of Jplly 
Life is a tragioj^y.^^^ 







The paper in this volume is brittle or the 
inner margins are extremely narrow* 

We have bound or rebound the volume 
utilizing the best means possible* 


General Bookbinding Co.. Chesterland. Ohio 


c op. ^ 

tOPTRIGHT, 1912, 1921, BT 















The only bond between these three stories is, so to 
speak, geographical, for their scene, be it land, be it sea, 
is situated in the same region which may be called the 
region of the Indian Ocean with its oflf-shoots and pro- 
longations north of the equator even as far as the 
Gulf of Siam. In point of time they belong to the 
period immediately after the publication of that novel 
with the awkward title "Under Western Eyes" and, a^ 
far as the life of the writer is concerned, their appear- 
ance in a volume mark^ a definite change in the for- 
tunes of his fiction. For there is no denying the fact 
that "Under WesternEyes" found no favour in the public 
eye, whereas the novel called "Chance" which followed 
' Twixt Land and Sea" was received on its first appear- 
ance by many more readers than any other of my books. 

This volume of three tales was also well received, 
publicly and privately and from a publisher's point of 
view. This little success was a most timely tonic for 
my enfeebled bodily frame. For this may indeed be 
called the book of a man's convalescence, at least as to 
three-fourths of it; because The Secret Sharer, the 
middle story, was written much earlier than the other 

For in truth the memories of "Under Western Eyes" 
are associated with the memory of a severe illness which 
seemed to wait like a tiger in the jungle on the turn of 
a path to jump on me the moment the last words of 


that novel were written. The memory of an iUness is 
very much Uke the memory of a nightmare. On 
emerging from it in a much enfeebled state I was in- 
spired to direct my tottering steps toward the Indian 
Ocean, a complete change of smroundings and atmos- 
phere from the Lake of Geneva, as nobody would 
deny. Begun so languidly and with such a fumbling 
hand that the first twenty pages or more had to be 
thrown into the waste-paper basket, A Smile of For- 
tune, the most purely Indian Ocean story of the three, 
has ended by becoming what the reader will see. I 
will only say for myself that I have been patted on the 
back for it by most imexpected people, personally 
imknown to me, the chief of them of course being the 
editor of a popular illustrated magazine who pub- 
lished it serially in one mighty instalment. Who will 
dare say after this that the change of air had not been 
^an immense success? 

The origins of the middle story. The Secret Sharer, 
are quite other. It was written much earUer and was 
pubUshed first in Harper^ s Magazine^ during the early 
part, I think, of 1911. Or perhaps the latter part? 
My memory on that point is hazy. The basic fact 
'of the tale I had in my possession for a good many 
years. It was in truth the common possession of the 
whole fleet of merchant ships trading to India, China, 
and Australia: a great company the last years of which 
coincided with my first years on the wider seas. The 
fact itself happened on board a very distinguished 
member of it, Cutty Sark by name and belonging to 
Mr. Willis, a notable ship-owner in his day, one of the 
kind (they are all undergroimd now) who used personally 
to see his ships start on their voyages to those 
distant shores where they showed worthily the hon- 
oured house-flag of their owner. I am glad I was not 


too late to get at least one glimpse of Mr. Willis on a 
very wet and gloomy morning watching from the pier 
head of the New South Dock one of his clippers start- 
ing on a China voyage — an imposing figure of a man 
under the invariable white hat so well known in the 
Port of London, waiting till the head of his ship had 
swung down-stream before giving her a dignified wave 
of a big gloved hand. For all I know it may have been 
the Cvtty Sark herself though certainly not on that 
fatal voyage. I do not know the date of the occur- 
rence on which the scheme of The Secret Sharer is 
founded; it came to light and even got into newspapers 
about the middle eighties, though I had heard of it 
before, as it were privately, among the officers of the 
great wool fleet in which my first years in deep water 
were served. It came to light under circumstances 
dramatic enough, I think, but which have nothing to 
do with my story. In the more specially maritime 
part of my writings this bit of presentation may take 
its place as one of my two Calm-pieces. For, if there 
is to be any classification by subjects, I have done two 
Storm-pieces in "The Nigger of the Narcissus*' and in 
''Typhoon*'; and two Calm-pieces: this one and "The 
Shadow Line," a book which belongs to a later period. 

Notwithstanding their autobiographical form the 
above two stories are not the record of personal experi- 
ence. Their quality, such as it is, depends on some- 
thing larger if less precise : on the character, vision and 
sentiment of the first twenty independent years of my 
life. And the same may be said of the Freya of the 
Seven Isles. I was considerably abused for writing 
that story on the ground of its cruelty, both in public 
prints and in private letters. I remember one from a 
man in America who was quite furiously angry. He 
told me with curses and imprecations that I had no 


right to write such an abominable thing which, he said, 
had gratuitously and intolerably harrowed his feelings. 
It was a very interesting letter to read. Impressive 
too. I carried it for some days in my pocket. Had I 
the right? The sincerity of the angei* impressed me 
Had I the right? Had I really sinned as he said or 
was it only that man's madness? Yet there was a 
method in his fury. ... I composed in my mind 
a violent reply, a reply of mild argument, a reply of 
lofty detachment; but they never got on paper in the 
end and I have forgotten their phrasing. The very 
letter of the angry man has got lost someho\^; and 
nothing remains now but the pages of the story which I 
cannot recall and would not recall if I could. 

But I am glad to think that the two women in this 
book: Alice, the sullen, passive victim of her fate, and 
the actively individual Freya, so determined to be the 
mistress of her own destiny, must have evoked some 
sympathies because of all my volumes of short stories 
this was the one for which there was the greatest imme- 
diate demand. 

1920. J. C. 



A Smile of Fortune 3 

The Secret Sharer 91 

Freta of the Seven Isles 147 



f r 



Ever since the sun rose I had been looking ahead. 
The ship glided gently in smooth water. After a sixty 
days' passage I was anxious to make my landfall, a fer- 
tile and beautiful island of the tropics. The more 
enthusiastic of its inhabitants delight in describing it as 
the "Pearl of the Ocean." Well, let us call it the 
"Pearl." It's a good name. A pearl distilling much 
sweetness upon the world. 

,This is only a way of telling you that first-rate sugar- 
cane is grown there. All the population of the Pearl 
lives for it and by it. Sugar is their daily bread, as it 
were. And I was coming to them for a cargo of sugar 
in the hope of the crop having been good and of the 
freights being high. 

Mr. Bums, my chief mate, made out the land first; 
and very soon I became entranced by this blue, pin- 
nacled apparition, almost transparent against the light 
of the sky, a mere emanation, the astral body of an 
island risen to greet me from afar. It is a rare phe- 
nomenon, such a sight of the Pearl at sixty miles oflP. 
And I wondered half seriously whether it was a good 
omen, whether what would meet me in that island would 
be as luckily exceptional as this beautiful, dreamlike 
vision so very few seamen have been privileged to be- 

But horrid thoughts of business interfered with my 


enjoyment of an accomplished passage. I was anxious 
for success and I wished, too, to do justice to the flatter- 
ing latitude of my owners' instructions contained in one 
noble phrase: "We leave it to you to do the best you 
can with the ship." . . . All the world being thus 
given me for a stage, my abilities appeared to me no 
bigger than a pinhead. 

Meantime the wind dropped, and Mr. Biu*ns began 
to make disagreeable remarks about my usual bad 
luck. I believe it was his devotion for me which made 
him critically outspoken on every occasion. All the 
same, I would not have put up with his humours if it had 
not been my lot at one time to nurse him through a 
desperate illness at sea. After snatching him out of 
the jaws of death, so to speak, it would have been 
absurd to throw away such an efficient officer. But 
sometimes I wished he would dismiss himself. 

We were late in closing in with the land, and had 
to anchor outside the harbour till next day. An un- 
pleasant and unrestful night followed. In this road- 
stead, strange to us both, Bums and I remained on deck 
almost all the time. Clouds swirled down the porphyry 
crags under which we lay. The rismg wind made a 
great bullying noise amongst the naked spars, with 
interludes of sad moaning. I remarked that we had 
been in luck to fetch the anchorage before dark. It 
would have been a nasty, anxious night to hang off a 
harbour imder canvas. But my chief mate was un- 
compromising in his attitude. 

"Luck, you call it, sir! Ay — our usual luck. The 
sort of luck tp thank God it's no worse!" 

And so he fretted through the dark hours, while I 
drew on my fund of philosophy. Ah, but it was an 
exasperating, weary, endless night, to be lying at an- 
chor close under that black coast! The agitated water 


made snarling sounds all round the ship. At times a 
wild gust of wind out of a gully high up on the cliflFs 
struck on our rigging a harsh and plaintive note like the 
wail of a forsaken soul. 

By half -past seven in the morning, the ship being then 
inside the harbour at last and moored within a long 
stone's-throw from the quay, my stock of philosophy 
was nearly exhausted. I was dressing hurriedly in 
my cabin when the steward came tripping in with a 
morning suit over his arm. 

Hungry, tired, and depressed, with my head engaged 
inside a white shirt irritatingly stuck together by too 
much starch, I desired him peevishly to "heave round 
with that breakfast." I wanted to get ashore as soon 
as possible. 

"Yes, sir. Ready at eight, sir. There's a gentle- 
man from the shore waiting to speak to you, sir." 

This statement was curiously slurred over. I dragged 
the shirt violently over my head and emerged staring. 

"So early!" I cried. "Who's he? What does he 

On coming in from sea one has to pick up the condi- 
tions of an utterly unrelated existence. Every little 
event at first has the peculiar emphasis of novelty. 
I was greatly surprised by that early caller; but there 
was no reason for my steward to look so particularly 

"Didn't you ask for the name?" I inquired in a 
stern tone. 

"His name's Jacobus, I believe," he mumbled shame- 

**'Mi. Jacobus!" I exclaimed loudly, more surprised 


than ever, but with a total change of feeling. "Why 
couldn't you say so at once?" 

But the fellow had scuttled out of my room. Through 
the momentarily opened door I had a glimpse of a tall, 
stout man standing in the cuddy by the table on which 
the cloth was already laid; a "harboui" table cloth, 
stainless and dazzlingly white. So far good. 

I shouted courteously through the closed door, that 
I was dressing and would be with him in a moment. In 
return the assurance that there was no hurry reached 
me in the visitor's deep, quiet undertone. His time 
was my own. He dared say I would give him a cup of 
coffee presently. 

"I am afraid you will have a poor breakfast," I cried 
apologetically. "We have been sixty-one days at sea, 
you know." 

A quiet little laugh, with a " That'll be all right. Cap- 
tain," was his answer. AU this, words, intonation, 
the glimpsed attitude of the man in the cuddy, had 
an unexj>ected character, a something friendly in it — 
propitiatory. And my surprise was not diminished 
thereby. What did this call mean? Was it the sign 
of some dark design against my commercial innocence? 

Ah! These commercial interests — spoiling the finest 
life under the sun. Why must the sea be used for trade 
— and for war as well? Why kill and traflBc on it, 
pursuing selfish aims of no great importance after all? 
It would have been so much nicer just to sail about with 
here and there a port and a bit of land to stretch one's 
legs on, buy a few books and get a change of cooking 
for a while. But, living in a world more or less homi- 
cidal and desperately mercantile, it was plainly my duty 
to make the best of its opportunities. 

My owners' letter had left it to me, as I have said 
before, to do my best for the ship, according to my own 


judgment. But it contained also a postscript worded 
somewhat as follows: 

"Without meaning to interfere with your liberty of 
action we are writing by the outgoing mail to some of 
our business friends there who may be of assistance 
to you. We desire you particularly to call on Mr. 
Jacobus, a prominent merchant and charterer. Should 
you hit it oflF with him he may be able to put you in the 
way of profitable employment for the ship." 

Hit it off! Here was the prominent creature abso- 
lutely on board asking for the favour of a cup of coffee! 
And life not being a fairy-tale the improbability of the 
event almost shocked me. Had I discovered an en- 
chanted nook of the earth where wealthy merchants 
rush fasting on board ships before they are fairly 
moored.^ Was this white magic or merely some black 
trick of trade? I came in the end (while making the 
bow of my tie) to suspect that perhaps I did not get the 
name right. I had been thinking of the prominent Mr. 
Jacobus pretty frequently during the passage and my 
hearing might have been deceived by some remote 
similarity of sound. . . . The steward might have 
said Antrobus — or maybe Jackson. 

But coming out of my stateroom with an interroga- 
tive "Mr. Jacobus?" I was met by a quiet "Yes," 
uttered with a gentle smile. The "yes" was rather 
perfimctory. He did not seem to make much of the 
fact that he was Mr. Jacobus. I took stock of a big, 
pale face, hair thin on the top, whiskers also thin, of a 
faded nondescript colour, heavy eyelids. The thick, 
smooth lips in repose looked as if glued together. The 
smile was faint. A heavy, tranquil man. I named my 
two oflBcers, who just then came down to breakfast; but 
why Mr. Bums's silent demeanour should suggest sup- 
pressed indignation I could not imderstand. 



While we were taking our seats round the table some 
disconnected words of an altercation going on in the 
companion way reached my ear. A stranger apparently 
wanted to come down to interview me, and the steward 
was opposing him. 

"You can't see him/* 
Why can't I?" 

The Captain is at breakfast, I tell you. He'll be 
going on shore presently, and you can speak to him on 

" That's not fair. You let " 

"I've had nothing to do with that." 

"Oh, yes, you have. Everybody ought to have the 
same chance. You let that fellow " 

The rest I lost. The person having been repulsed 
successfully, the steward came down. I can't say he 
looked flushed — ^he was a mulatto — ^but he looked 
flustered. After putting the dishes on the table he 
remained by the sideboard with that lackadaisical air 
of indiflFerence he used to assume when he had done 
something too clever by half and was afraid of getting 
into a scrape over it. The contemptuous expression 
of Mr. Bums's face as he looked from him to me was 
really extraordinary. I couldn't imagine what new 
bee had stung the mate now. 

The Captain being silent, nobody else cared to speak, 
as is the way in ships. And I was saying nothing 
simply because I had been made dumb by the splendour 
of the entertainment. I had expected the usual sea- 
breakfast, whereas I beheld spread before us a veritable 
feast of shore provisions: eggs, sausages, butter which 
plainly did not come from a Danish tin, cutlets, and 
even a dish of potatoes. It was three weeks since I had 
seen a real, live potato. I contemplated them with 
interest, and Mr. Jacobus disclosed himself as a man of 


human, homely sympathies, and something of a thought- 

"Try them. Captain," he encouraged me in a friendly 
undertone. "They are excellent." 

"They look that," I admitted. "Grown on the 
island, I suppose." 

"Oh, no, imported. Those grown here would be 
more expensive." 

I was grieved at the ineptitude of the conversation. 
Were these the topics for a prominent and wealthy 
merchant to discuss? I thought the simplicity with 
which he made himself at home rather attractive; but 
what is one to talk about to a man who comes on one 
suddenly, after sixty-one days at sea, out of a totally 
unknown little town in an island one has never seen 
before? What were (besides sugar) the interests of 
that crumb of the earth, its gossip, its topics of con- 
versation? To draw him on business at once would 
have been almost indecent — or even worse: impolitic. 
All I could do at the moment was to keep on in the old 

"Are the provisions generally dear here?" I asked, 
fretting inwardly at my inanity. 

"I wouldn't say that," he answered placidly, with 
that appearance of saving his breath his restrained man- 
ner of speaking suggested. 

He would not be more explicit, yet he did not evade 
the subject. Eyeing the table in a spirit of complete 
abstemiousness (he wouldn't let me help him to any 
eatables) he went into details of supply. The beef 
was for the most part imported from Madagascar; 
mutton of course was rare and somewhat expensive, but 
good goat's flesh 

"Are these goat's cutlets?" I exclaimed hastily, 
pointing at one of the dishes. 


Posed sentimentally by the sideboard, the steward ^ 
gave a start. 

"Lor*, no, sir! It's real mutton!" 

Mr. Bums got through his breakfast impatiently, 
as if exasperated by being made a party to some 
monstrous foolishness, muttered a curt excuse, and 
went on deck. Shortly afterwards the second mate 
took his smooth red countenance out of the cabin. 
With the appetite of a schoolboy, and after two months ^ 
of sea-fare, he appreciated the generous spread. But 
I did not. It smacked of extravagance. All the same, 
it was a remarkable feat to have produced it so quickly, 
and I congratulated the steward on his smartness in 
a somewhat ominous tone. He gave me a deprecatory 
smile and, in a way I didn't know what to make of, 
blinked his fine dark eyes in the direction of the guest. 

The latter asked under his breath for another cup of 
coflFee, and nibbled ascetically at a piece of very hard 
ship's biscuit. I don't think he consumed a square inch ^ 
in the end; but meantime he gave me, casually as it 
were, a complete account of the sugar crop, of the local 
business houses, of the state of the freight market. All 
that talk was interspersed with hints as to personalities, 
amounting to veiled warnings, but his pale, fleshy face 
remained equable, without a gleam, as if ignorant of his 
voice. As you may imagine I opened my ears very 
wide. Every word was precious. My ideas as to the 
value of business friendship were being favourably 
modified. He gave me the names of all the disponible 
ships together with their tonnage and the names of 
their commanders. From that, which was still com- 
mercial information, he condescended to mere harbour 
gossip. The Hilda had unaccountably lost her figure- 
head in the Bay of Bengal, and her captain was greatly 
affected by this. He and the ship had been getting on 


in years together and the old gentleman imagined this 
strange event to be the fore-runner of his own early 
dissolution. The Stella had experienced awful weather 
off the Cape — had her decks swept, and the chief oflScer 
washed overboard. And only a few hours before reach- 
ing port the baby died. Poor Captain H and his 

wife were terribly cut up. If they had only been able 
to bring it into port»alive it could have been probably 
saved; but the wind failed them for the last week or so, 
light breezes, and . . . the baby was going to be 
buried this afternoon. He supposed I would attend 

"Do you think I ought to.?" I asked, shrinkingly. 

He thought so, decidedly. It would be greatly 
appreciated. All the captains in the harbour were go- 
ing to attend. Poor Mrs. H was quite prostrated. 

Pretty hard on H altogether. 

"And you. Captain — you are not married I sup- 

"No, I am not married," I said. "Neither married 
nor even engaged." 

Mentally I thanked my stars; and while he smiled 
in a musing, dreamy fashion, I expressed my acknowl- 
edgments for his visit and for the interesting business 
information he had been good enough to impart to me. 
But I said nothing of my wonder thereat. 

"Of course, I would have made a point of trailing 
on you in a day or two," I concluded. 

He raised his eyelids distinctly at me, and somehow 
managed to look rather more sleepy than before. 

"In accordance with my owners' instructions," I 
explained. "You have had their letter, of course?" 

By that time he had raised his eyebrows too but with- 
out any particular emotion. On the contrary he struck 
me then as absolutely imperturbable. 

"Oh! You must be thinking of my brother." 


It was for me, then, to say "Oh!" But I hope that 
no more than civil surprise appeared in my voice when 
I asked him to what, then, I owed the pleasure. . . . 
He was reaching for an inside pocket leisurely. 

"My brother's a very different person. But I am 
well known in this part of the world. You've probably 
heard " 

I took a card he extended to me. A thick business 
card, as I lived! Alfred Jacobus — the other was 
Ernest — dealer in every description of ship's stores! 
Provisions salt and fresh, oils, paints, rope, canvas, 
etc., etc. Ships in harbour victualled by contract on 
moderate terms 

"I've never heard of you," I said brusquely. 

His low-pitched assurance did not abandon him. 

"You will be very well satisfied," he breathed out 

I was not placated. I had the sense of having been 
circumvented somehow. Yet I had deceived myself 
— if there was any deception. But the confounded 
cheek of inviting himself to breakfast was enough to 
deceive any one. And the thought struck me: Why! 
The fellow had provided all these eatables himself in 
the way of business. I said: 

"You must have got up mighty early this morning." 

He admitted with simplicity that he was on the quay 
before six o'clock waiting for my ship to come in. He 
gave me the impression that it would be impossible to 
get rid of him now. 

"If you think we are going to live on that scale," I 
said, looking at the table with an irritated eye, "you 
are jolly well mistaken." 

"You'll find it all right. Captain. I quite under- 

Nothing could disturb his equanimity. I felt dis- 


satisfied, but I could not very well fly out at him. He 
had told me many useful things — and besides he was 
the brother of that wealthy merchant. That seemed 
queer enough. 

I rose and told him curtly that I must now go ashore. 
At once he offered the use of his boat for all the time of 
my stay in port. 

"I only make a nominal charge/' he continued 
equably. "My man remains all day at the landing- 
steps. You have only to blow a whistle when you want 
the boat." 

And, standing aside at every doorway to let me go 
through first, he carried me off in his custody after all. 
As we crossed the quarter-deck two shabby individuals 
stepped forward and in mournful silence offered me 
business cards which I took from them without a word 
under his heavy eye. It was a useless and gloomy 
ceremony. They were the touts of the other ship- 
chandlers, and he, placid at my back, ignored their 

We parted on the quay, after he had expressed 
quietly the hope of seeing me often "at the store." 
He had a smoking-room for captains there, with news- 
papers and a box of "rather decent cigars." I left hini 
very unceremoniously. 

My consignees received me with the usual business 
heartiness, but their account of the state of the freight- 
market was by no means so favourable as the talk of 
the wrong Jacobus had led me to expect. Naturally 
I became inclined now to put my trust in his version, 
rather. As I closed the door of the private oflSce be- 
hind me I thought to myself: "H'm. A lot of lies. 
Commercial diplomacy. That's the sort of thing a 
man coming from sea has got to expect. They would 
try to charter the ship under the market rate." 


In the big, outer room, full of desks, the chief clerk, 
a tall, lean, shaved person in immaculate white clothes 
and with a shiny, closely cropped black head on which 
silvery gleams came and went, rose from his place and 
detained me aflFably. Anything they could do for me, 
they would be most happy. Was I likely to call again 
in the afternoon? What? Going to a funeral? Oh, 
yes, poor Captain H- . 

He pulled a long, sympathetic face for a moment, 
then, dismissing from this workaday world the baby, 
which had got ill in a tempest and had died from too 
much calm at sea, he asked me with a dental, shark-like 
smile — if sharks had false teeth — whether I had yet 
made my little arrangements for the ship's stay in port. 

"Yes, with Jacobus," I answered carelessly. "I 
understand he's the brother of Mr. Ernest Jacobus to 
whom I have an introduction from my owners." 

I was not sorry to let him know I was not altogether 
helpless in the hands of his firm. He screwed his thin 
lips dubiously. 

"AVhy," I cried, "isn't he the brother?" 

"Oh, yes. . . . They haven't spoken to each 
other for eighteen years," he added impressively after a 

"Indeed! AVhat's the quarrel about?" 

"Oh, nothing! Nothing that one would care to 
mention," he protested primly. "He's got quite a 
large business. The best ship-chandler here, without 
a doubt. Business is all very well, but there is such a 
thing as personal character, too, isn't there? Good- 
morning, Captain." 

He went away mincingly to his desk. He amused 
me. He resembled an old maid, a commercial old 
maid, shocked by some impropriety. Was it a com- 
mercial impropriety? Commercial impropriety is a seri- 


ous matter, for it aims at one's pocket. Or was he only 
a purist in conduct who disapproved of Jacobus doing 
his own touting? It was certainly undignified. I 
wondered how the merchant brother liked it. But then 
different countries, different customs. In a community 
so isolated and so exclusively "trading" social stand- 
ards have their own scale. 


I WOULD have gladly dispensed with the mournful 
opi>ortunity of becoming acquainted by sight with all 
my fellow-captains at once. However I found my 
way to the cemetery. We made a considerable group 
of bareheaded men in sombre garments. I noticed 
that those of our company most approaching to the 
now obsolete sea-dog type were the most moved — 
perhaps because they had less "manner" than the 
new generation. The old sea-dog, away from his 
natural element, was a simple and sentimental animal. 
I noticed one — ^he was facing me across the grave — who 
was dropping tears. They trickled down his weather- 
beaten face like drops of rain on an old rugged wall. I 
learned afterwards that he was looked upon as the 
terror of sailors, a hard man; that he had never had 
wife or chick of his own, and that, engaged from his 
tenderest years in deep-sea voyages, he knew women 
and children merely by sight. 

Perhaps he was dropping those tears over his lost 
opportunities, from sheer envy of paternity and in 
strange jealousy of a sorrow which he could never know. 
Man, and even the sea-man, is a capricious animal, the 
creature and the victim of lost opportunities. But he 
made me feel ashamed of my callousness. I had no 


I listened with horribly critical detachment to that 
service I had had to read myself, once or twice, over 
childlike men who had died at sea. The words of hope 
and defiance, the winged words so inspiring in the free 
immensity of water and sky, seemed to fall wearily into 
the little grave. What was the use of asking Death 
where her sting was, before that small, dark hole in the 
ground .f^ And then my thoughts escaped me altogether 
— away into matters of life — and no very high matters 
at that — ships, freights, business. In the instability of 
his emotions man resembles deplorably a monkey. I 
was disgusted with my thoughts — and I thought: 
Shall I be able to get a charter soon? Time's money. . . 
Will that Jacobus really put good business in my 
way.? ... I must go and see him in a day or two. 

Don't imagine that I pursued these thoughts with 
any precision. They pursued me rather: vague, 
shadowy, restless, shamefaced. Theirs was a callous, 
abominable, almost revolting, pertinacity. And it 
was the presence of that pertinacious ship-chandler 
which had started them. He stood mournfully amongst 
our little band of men from the sea, and I was angry 
at his presence, which, suggesting his brother the mer- 
chant, had caused me to become outrageous to myself. 
For indeed I had preserved some decency of feeling. It 
was only the mind which 

It was over at last. The poor father — a man of 
forty with black, bushy side-whiskers and a pathetic 
gash on his freshly shaved chin — thanked us all, 
swallowing his tears. But for some reason, either be- 
cause I lingered at the gate of the cemetery, being some- 
what hazy as to my way back, or because I was the 
youngest, or ascribing my moodiness caused by remorse 
to some more worthy and appropriate sentiment, or 
simply because I was even more of a stranger to him 


than the others — ^he singled me out. Keeping at my 
side, he renewed his thanks, which I listened to in a 
gloomy, conscience-stricken silence. Suddenly he 
slipped one hand under my arm and waved the other 
after a tall, stout figure walking away by itself down a 
street in a flutter of thin, grey garments: 

"That's a good fellow — a real good fellow" — ^he 
swallowed down a belated sob — "this Jacobus." 

And he told me in a low voice that Jacobus was the 
first man to board his ship on arrival, and, learning of 
their misfortune, had taken charge of everything, 
volunteered to attend to all routine business, carried off 
the ship's papers on shore, arranged for the funeral • 

"A good fellow. I was knocked over. I had been 
looking at my wife for ten days. And helpless. Just 
you think of that! The dear little chap died the very 
day we made the land. How I managed to take the 
ship in God alone knows! I couldn't see anything; 
I couldn't speak; I couldn't. . . . You've heard, 
perhaps, that we lost our mate overboard on the pas- 
sage.'^ There was no one to do it for me. And the poor 
woman nearly crazy down below there all alone with 
the . . . By the Lord! It isn't fair." 

We walked in silence together. I did not know how 
to part from him. On the quay he let go my arm and 
struck fiercely his fist into the palm of his other hand. 

"By God, it isn't fair!" he cried again. "Don't 
you ever marry unless you can chuck the sea first. . . . 
It isn't fair." 

I had no intention to "chuck the sea," and when he 
left me to go aboard his ship I felt convinced that I 
would never marry. While I was waiting at the steps 
for Jacobus's boatman, who had gone off somewhere, 
the captain of the Hilda joined me, a slender silk um- 
brella in his hand and the sharp points of his archaic, 


Gladstonian shirt-collar framing a small, clean-shaved 
ruddy face. It was wonderfully fresh for his age, 
beautifully modelled and lit up by remarkably clear 
blue eyes. A lot of white hair, glossy like spun glass, 
curled upwards slightly under the brim of his valuable, 
ancient, panama hat with a broad black ribbon. In the 
aspect of that vivacious, neat, little old man there was 
something quaintly angelic and also boyish. 

He accosted me, as though he had been in the habit 
of seeing me every day of his life from my earliest child- 
hood, with a whimsical remark on the appearance of a 
stout negro woman who was sitting upon a stool near 
the edge of the quay. Presently he observed amiably 
that I had a very pretty little barque. 

I returned this civil speech by saying readily: 

"Not so pretty as the Hilda.^* 

At once the corners of his clear-cut, sensitive mouth 
dropped dismally. 

"Oh, dear! I can hardly bear to look at her now." 

Did I know, he asked anxiously, that he had lost 
the figurehead of his ship; a woman in a blue tunic 
edged with gold, the face perhaps not so very, very 
pretty, but her bare white arms beautifully shaped and 
extended as if she were swimming? Did I? Who 
would have expected such a thing! . . . After 
twenty years too! 

Nobody could have guessed from his tone that the 
woman was made of wood; his trembling voice, his 
agitated manner gave to his lamentations a ludicrously 
scandalous flavour. . . . Disappeared at night — 
a clear fine night with just a slight swell — ^in the gulf 
of Bengal. Went oflF without a splash; no one in the 
ship could tell why, how, at what hour — after twenty 
years last October. . . . Did I ever hear. . . . 

I assured him sympathetically that I had never heard 


— and he became very doleful. This meant no good he 
was sure. There was something in it which looked like 
a warning. But when I remarked that surely anothei* 
figure of a woman could be procured I found myself 
being soundly rated for my levity. The old boy flushed 
pink under his clear tan as if I had proposed something 
improper. One could replace masts, I was told, or a 
lost rudder — any working part of a ship; but where was 
the use of sticking up a new figurehead? What satis- 
faction? How could one care for it? It was easy to see 
that I had never been shipmates with a figurehead for 
over twenty years. 

"A new figurehead!" he scolded in unquenchable in- 
dignation. "Why! I've been a widower now for 
eight-and-twenty years come next May and I would 
just as soon think of getting a new wife. You're as 
bad as that fellow Jacobus." 

I was highly amused. 

"What has Jacobus done? Did he want you tc 
marry again. Captain?" I inquired in a deferential 
tone. But he was launched now and only grinned 

"Procure-^indeed! He's the sort of chap to procure 
you anything you like for a price. I hadn't been 
moored here for an ^our when he got on board and at 
once offered to sell me a figurehead he happens to 
have in his yard somewhere. He got Smith, my mate, 
to talk to me about it. *Mr. Smith,' says I, * don't 
you know me better than that? Am I the sort that 
would pick up with another man's cast-off figurehead?' 
And after all these years too! The way some of you 
young fellows talk " 

I affected great compunction, and as I stepped int© 
the boat I said soberly: 

"Then I see nothing for it but to fit in a neat fiddle^ 


head — perhaps. You know, carved scrollwork, nicdy 

He became very dejected after his outburst. 

"Yes. Scrollwork. Maybe. Jacobus hinted at 
that too. He's never at a loss when there's any money 
to be extracted from a sailorman. He would make me 
pay through the nose for that carving. A gilt fiddle- 
head did you say — eh? I dare say it would do for you. 
You young fellows don't seem to have any feeling for 
what's proper." 

He made a convulsive gesture with his right arm. 

"Never mind. Nothing can make much difference. 
I would just as soon let the old thing go about the world 
with a bare cutwater," he cried sadly. Then as the 
boat got away from the steps he raised his voice on the 
edge of the quay with comical animosity: 

"I would! If only to spite that figurehead-procuring 
bloodsucker. I am an old bird here and don't you for- 
get it. Come and see me on board some day!" 

I spent my first evening in port quietly in my ship's 
cuddy; and glad enough was I to think that the shore 
life which strikes one as so pettily complex, discordant, 
and so full of new faces on first coming from sea, could 
be kept off for a few hours longer. I was however fated 
to hear the Jacobus note once more before I slept. 

Mr. Burns had gone ashore after the evening meal 
to have, as he said, "a look round." As it was quite 
dark when he announced his intention I didn't ask him 
what it was he expected to see. Some time about mid- 
night, while sitting with a book in the saloon, I heard 
cautious movements in the lobby and hailed him by 

Burns came in, stick and hat in hand, incredibly 
vulgarised by his smart shore togs, with a jaunty air 
and an odious twinkle in his eye. Being asked to sit 


\vn he laid his hat and stick on the table and after 

2 had talked of ship affairs for a little while: 

"I've been hearing pretty tales on shore about that 
hip-chandler fellow who snatched the job from you 
so neatly, sir." 

I remonstrated with my late patient for his manner 
of expressing himself. But he only tossed his head dis- 
dainfully. A pretty dodge indeed : boarding a strange 
ship with breakfast in two baskets for all hands and 
calmly inviting himself to the captain's table! Never 
heard of anything so crafty and so impudent in his life. 

I found myself defending Jacobus's unusual methods, 

"He's the brother of one of the wealthiest merchants 
in the port." The mate's eyes fairly snapped green 

"His grand brother hasn't spoken to him for eighteen 
or twenty years," he declared triumphantly. "So 

"I know all about that," I interrupted loftily. 

"Do you, sir.f^ H'm!" His mind was still running 
on the ethics of commercial competition. "I don't 
like to see your good nature taken advantage of. He's 
bribed that steward of ours with a five-rupee note to 
let him come down — or ten for that matter. He don't 
care. He will shove that and more into the bill pres- 

"Is that one of the tales you have heard ashore?" 
I asked. 

He assured me that his own sense could tell him that 
much. No; what he had heard on shore was that no 
respectable person in the whole town would come near 
Jacobus. He lived in a large old-fashioned house in 
one of the quiet streets with a big garden. After tell- 
ing me this Bums put on a mysterious air. "He keeps 
a girl shut up there who, they say " 


"I suppose you've heard all this gossip in some 
eminently respectable place?" I snapped at him in a 
most sarcastic tone. 

The shaft told, because Mr. Bums, like many other 
disagreeable people, was very sensitive himself. He 
remained as if thunderstruck, with his mouth open for 
some further communication, but I did not give him 
the chance. "And, anyhow, what the deuce do I 
care.'^" I added, retiring into my room. 

And this was a natural thing to say. Yet some- 
how I was not indifferent. I admit it is absurd to 
be concerned with the morals of one's ship-chandler, 
ii ever so well connected; but his personality had 
stamped itself upon my first day in harbour, in the way 
you know. 

After this initial exploit Jacobus showed himself 
anything but intrusive. He was out in a boat early 
every morning going round the ships he served, and 
occasionally remaining on board one of them for break- 
fast with the captain. 

As I discovered that this practice was generally ac- 
cepted, I just nodded to him familiarly when one morn- 
ing, on coming out of my room, I found him in the 
cabin. Glancing over the table I saw that his place 
was already laid. He stood awaiting my appearance, 
very bulky and placid, holding a beautiful bunch of 
flowers in his thick hand. He offered them to my 
notice with a faint, sleepy smile. From his own gar- 
den; had a very fine old garden; picked them himself 
that morning before going out to business; thought I 
would like. . . . He turned away. "Steward, 
can you oblige me with some water in a large jar, 

I assured him jocularly, as I took my place at the 
table, that he made me feel as if I were a pretty girl, and 


that he mustn't be surprised if I blushed. But he was 
busy arranging his floral tribute at the sideboard. 
"Stand it before the Captain's plate, steward, please." 
He made his request in his usual undertone. 

The offering was so pointed that I could do no less 
than to raise it to my nose, and as he sat down noise- 
lessly he breathed out the opinion that a few flowers 
improved notably the appearance of a ship's saloon. 
He wondered why I did not have a shelf fitted all round 
the skylight for flowers in pots to take with me to sea. 
He had a skilled workman able to fit up shelves in a 
day, and he could procure me two or three dozen good 

The tips of his thick, round fingers rested composedly 
on the edge of the table on each side of his cup of coffee. 
His face remained immovable. Mr. Burns was smiling 
maliciously to himself. I declared that I hadn't the 
slightest intention of turning my skylight into a con- 
servatory only to keep the cabin-table in a perpetual 
mess of mould and dead vegetable matter. 

"Rear most beautiful flowers," he insisted with an 
upward glance. "It's no trouble really." 

"Oh, yes, it is. Lots of trouble," I contradicted. 
"And in the end some fool leaves the skylight open 
in a fresh breeze, a flick of salt water gets at them and 
the whole lot is dead in a week." 

Mr. Bums snorted a contemptuous approval. Jaco- 
bus gave up the subject passively. After a time he 
unglued his thick lips to ask me if I had seen his brother 
yet. I was very curt in my answer. 
No, not yet." 

A very different person," he remarked dreamily 
and got up. His movements were particularly noise- 
less. "Well — thank you, Captain. If anything is not 
to your liking please mention it to your steward. I 


suppose you will be giving a dinner to the office-clerks 

"What for?" I cried with some warmth. "If I 
were a steady trader to the port I could understand it. 
But a complete stranger! ... I may not turn up 
again here for years. I don't see why I . . . Do 
you mean to say it is customary?" 

"It will be expected ^ from a man like you," he 
breathed out placidly. "Eight of the principal clerks, 
the manager, that's nine, you three gentlemen, that's 
twelve. It needn't be very expensive. If you tell 
your steward to give me a day's notice " 

"It will be expected of me! Why should it be ex- 
pected of me? Is it because I look particularly soft — 
or what?" 

His immobility struck me as dignified suddenly, his 
imperturbable quality as dangerous. "There's plenty 
of time to think about that," I concluded weakly with 
a gesture that tried to wave him away. But before 
he departed he took time to mention regretfully that 
he had not yet had the pleasure of seeing me at his 
"store" to sample those cigars. He had a parcel of 
six thousand to dispose of, very cheap. 

"I think it would be worth your while to secure 
some," he added with a fat, melancholy smile and left 
the cabin. 

Mr. Burns struck hi;s fist on the table excitedly. 

"Did you ever see such impudence! He's made up 
his mind to get something out of you one way or 
another, sir." 

At once feeling inclined to defend Jacobus, I observed 
philosophically that all this was business, I supposed. 
But my absurd mate, muttering broken disjointed 
sentences, such as: "I cannot bear! . . . Mark 
my words! • • •" and so on, flung out of tlie cabin. 


If I hadn't nursed him through that deadly fever I 
wouldn't have suffered such manners for a single day. 


Jacobus having put me in mind of his wealthy 
brother I concluded I would pay that business call at 
once. I had by that time heard a little more of him. 
He was a member of the Council, where he made him- 
self objectionable to the authorities. He exercised 
a considerable influence on public opinion. Lots of 
I>eople owed him money. He was an importer on a 
great scale of all sorts of goods. For instance, the 
whole supply of bags for sugar was practically in his 
hands. This last fact I did not learn till afterwards. 
The general impression conveyed to me was that of a 
local personage. He was a bachelor and gave weekly 
card-parties in his house out of town, which were at- 
tended by the best people in the colony. 

The greater, then, was my surprise to discover his 
office in shabby surroundings, quite away from the 
business quarter, amongst a lot of hovels. Guided by 
a black board with white lettering, I climbed a narrow 
wooden staircase and entered a room with a bare floor 
of planks littered with bits of brown paper and wisps of 
packing straw. A great number of what looked like 
wine-cases were piled up against one of the walls. A 
lanky, inky, light-yellow, mulatto youth, miserably 
long-necked and generally recalling a sick chicken, got 
off a three-legged stool behind a cheap deal desk and 
faced me as if gone dumb with fright. I had some 
difficulty in persuading him to take in my name, though 
I could not get from him the nature of his objection. 
He did it at last with an almost agonised reluctance 
which ceased to be mysterious to me when I heard him 


being sworn at menacingly with savage, suppressed 
growls, then audibly cuffed and finally kicked out with-^ 
out any concealment whatever; because he came back 
flying head foremost through the door with a stifled 

To say I was startled would not express it. I re- 
mained still, like a man lost in a dream. Clapping both 
his hands to that part of his frail anatomy which had 
received the shock, the poor wretch said to me simply: 

"Will you go in, please.'* 

His lamentable self-possession was wonderful; but 
it did not do away with the incredibility of the ex- 
perience. A preposterous notion that I had seen this 
boy somewhere before, a thing obviously impossible, was 
like a delicate finishing touch of weirdness added to a 
scene fit to raise doubts as to one's sanity. I stared 
anxiously about me like an awakened somnambulist. 

"I say," I cried loudly, "there isn't a mistake, is 
there? This is Mr. Jacobus's oflBce?" 

The boy gazed at me with a pained expression — ^and 
somehow so familiar! A voice within growled offen- 
sively : 

"Come in, come in, since you are there. ... I 
didn't know." 

I crossed the outer room as one approaches the den 
of some unknown wild beast; with intrepidity but in 
some excitement. Only no wild beast that ever lived 
would rouse one's indignation; the power to do that 
belongs to the odiousness of the human brute. And 
I was very indignant, which did not prevent me from 
being at once struck by the extraordinary resemblance 
of the two brothers. 

This one was dark instead of being fair like the 
other; but he was as big. He was without his coat and 
waistcoat; he had been doubtless snoozing in the 


rocking-chair which stood in a corner furthest from 
the window. Above the great bulk of his crumpled 
white shirt, buttoned with three diamond studs, his 
round face looked swarthy. It was moist; his 
brown moustache hung limp and ragged. He pushed 
a common, cane-bottomed chair towards me with his 

"Sit down." 

I glanced at it casually, then, turning my indignant 
eyes full upon him, I declared in precise and incisive 
tones that I had called in obedience to my owners' 

"Oh! Yes. H'm! I didn't understand what that 
fool was saying. . . . But never mind! It will 
teach the scoundrel to disturb me at this time of 
the day," he added, grinning at me with savage 

I looked at my watch. It was past three o'clock — 
quite the full swing of afternoon office work in the port. 
He snarled imperiously; "Sit down. Captain." 

I acknowledged the gracious invitation by saying 

" I can listen to all you may have to say without sit- 
ting down." 

Emitting a loud and vehement "Pshaw!" he glared 
for a moment, very round-eyed and fierce. It was like 
a gigantic tomcat spitting at one suddenly. "Look 
at him! . . . What do you fancy yourself to 
be? What did you come here for? If you won't 
sit down and talk business you had better go to the 

"I don't know him personally," I said. "But after 
this I wouldn't mind calling on him. It would be 
refreshing to meet a gentleman." 

He followed me, growling behind my back: 


"^he impudence! I've a good mind to write to your 
owners what I think of you." 

I turned on him for a moment: 

"As it happens I don't care. For my part I assure 
you I won't even take the trouble to mention you to 

He stopped at the door of his oflSce while I traversed 
the littered anteroom. I think he was somewhat taken 

"I will break every bone in your body," he roared 
suddenly at the miserable mulatto lad, "if you ever 
dare to disturb me before half -past three for anybody. 
D'ye hear? For anybody! . . . Let alone any 
damned skipper," he added, in a lower growl. 

The frail youngster, swaying like a reed, made a low 
moaning sound. I stopped short and addressed this 
sufferer with advice. It was prompted by the sight of 
a hammer (used for opening the wine-cases, I suppose) 
which was lying on the floor. 

"If I were you, my boy, I would have that thing 
up my sleeve when I went in next and at the first 
occasion I would " 

What was there so familiar in that lad's yellow face.'^ 
Entrenched and quaking behind the flimsy desk, he 
never looked up. His heavy, lowered eyelids gave me 
suddenly the clue of the puzzle. He resembled — yes, 
those thick glued lips — he resembled the brothers 
Jacobus. He resembled both, the wealthy merchant 
and the pushing shopkeeper (who resembled each 
other); he resembled them as much as a thin, light- 
yellow mulatto lad may resemble a big, stout, middle- 
aged white man. It was the exotic complexion and 
the slightness of his build which had put me off sr 
completely. Now I saw in him unmistakably th^.- 
Jacobus strain, weakened, attenuated, diluted as it 


were in a bucket of water — and I refrained from finish- 
ing my speech. I had intended to say: "Crack this 
brute's head for him." I still felt the conclusion to be 
sound. But it is no trifling responsibility to counsel 
parricide to any one, however deeply injured. 

" Beggarly — cheeky — skippers." 

I despised the emphatic growl at my back; only, 
being much vexed and upset, I regret to say that I 
slammed the door behind me in a most undignified 

It niay not appear altogether absurd if I say that 
I brought out from that interview a kindlier view of 
the other Jacobus. It was with a feeling resembling 
partisanship that, a few days later, I called at his 
"store." That long, cavern-like place of business, 
very dim at the back and stuffed full of all sorts of 
goods, was entered from the street by a lofty archway. 
At the far end I saw my Jacobus exerting himself in 
his shirt-sleeves among his assistants. The captains' 
room was a small, vaulted apartment with a stone 
floor and heavy iron bars in its windows like a dungeon 
converted to hospitable purposes. A couple of cheer- 
ful bottles and several gleaming glasses made a brilliant 
cluster round a tall, cool red earthenware pitcher on 
the centre table which was littered with newspapers 
from all parts of the world. A well-groomed stranger 
in a smart grey check suit, sitting with one leg flung 
over his knee, put down one of these sheets briskly and 
nodded to me. 

I guessed him to be a steamer-captain. It was 
impossible to get to know these men. They came and 
went too quickly and their ships lay moored far out, 
at the very entrance of the harbour. Theirs was 
another life altogether. He yawned slightly. 

"Dull hole, isn't it?" 


I understood this to allude to the town. 

"Do you find it so?" I murmured. 

*^ Don't you? But I'm off to-morrow, thank good- 

He was a very gentlemanly person, good-natured and 
superior. I watched him draw the open box of cigars 
to his side of the table, take a big cigar-case out of his 
pocket and begin to fill it very methodically. Presently, 
on our eyes meeting, he winked like a common mortal 
and invited me to follow his example. "They are 
really decent smokes." I shook my head. 

"I am not off to-morrow." 

"What of that? Think I am abusing old Jacobus's 
hospitality? Heavens! It goes into the bill, of course. 
He spreads such little matters all over his account. 
He can take care of himself! Why, it's business " 

I noted a shadow fall over his well-satisfied ex- 
pression, a momentary hesitation in closing his cigar- 
case. But he ended by putting it in his pocket jauntily. 
A placid voice uttered in the doorway: "That's quite 
correct. Captain." 

The large noiseless Jacobus advanced into the room. 
His quietness, in the circumstances, amounted to 
cordiality. He had put on his jacket before joining 
us, and he sat down in the chair vacated by the steamer- 
man, who nodded again to me and went out with a 
short, jarring laugh. A profound silence reigned. 
With his drowsy stare Jacobus seemed to be slumber- 
ing open-eyed. Yet, somehow, I was aware of being 
profoundly scrutinised by those heavy eyes. In the 
enormous cavern of the store somebody began to nail 
down a case, expertly: tap-tap . . . tap-tap-tap. 
Two other experts, one slow and nasal, the other shrill 
and snappy, started checking an invoice. 

"A half -coil of three-inch manilla rope." 



"Six assorted shackles." 


"Six tins assorted soups, three of pate, two aspara- 
gus, fourteen pounds tobacco, cabin." 

"Right!" . 

"It's for the captain who was here just now," 
breathed out the immovable Jacobus. "These steamer 
orders are very small. They pick up what they want 
as they go along. That man will be in Samarang 
in less than a fortnight. Very small orders in- 

The calling over of Ihe items went on in the shop; 
an extraordinary jumble of varied articles, paint- 
brushes, Yorkshire Relish, etc., etc. . . . "Three 
sacks of best potatoes," read out the nasal voice. 

At this Jacobus blinked like a sleeping man roused 
by a shake, and displayed some animation. At his 
order, shouted into the shop, a smirking half-caste 
clerk with his ringlets much oiled and with a pen stuck 
behind his ear, brought in a sample of six potatoes 
which he paraded in a row on the table. 

Being urged to look at their beauty I gave them a 
cold and hostile glance. Calmly, Jacobus proposed 
that I should order ten or fifteen tons — tons! I 
couldn't believe my ears. My crew could not have 
eaten such a lot in a year; and potatoes (excuse these 
practical remarks) are a highly perishable commodity. 
I thought he was joking — or else trying to find out 
whether I was an unutterable idiot. But his purpose 
was not so simple. I discovered that he meant me to 
buy them on my own account. 

"I am proposing you a bit of business. Captain. I 
wouldn't charge you a great price." 

I told him that I did not go in for trade. I even 


added grimly that I knew only too well how that sort 
of spec, generally ended. 

He sighed and clasped his hands on his stomach with 
exemplary resignation. I admired the placidity of his 
impudence. Then waking up somewhat: 
. "Won't you try a cigar. Captain?" 

"No, thanks. I don't smoke cigars." 

"For once!" he exclaimed, in a patient whisjyer. 
A melancholy silence ensued. You know how some- 
times a person discloses a certain unsuspected depth 
and acuteness of thought; that is, in other words, 
utters something unexpected. It was unexpected 
enough to hear Jacobus say: 

"The man who just went out was right enough. 
You might take one. Captain. Here everything is 
bound to be in the way of business." 

I felt a little ashamed of myself. The remembrance 
of his horrid brotlier made him appear quite a decent 
sort of fellow. It was with some compunction that I 
said a few words to the effect that I could have no 
possible objection to his hospitality. 

Before I was a minute older I saw where this ad- 
mission was leading me. As if changing the subject 
Jacobus mentioned that his private house was about 
ten minutes' walk away. It had a beautiful old walled 
garden. Something really remarkable. I ought to 
come round some day and have a look at it. 

He seemed to be a lover of gardens. I too take ex- 
treme delight in them; but I did not mean my com- 
punction to carry me as far as Jacobus's flower-beds, 
however beautiful and old. He added, with a certain 
homeliness of tone: 

"There's only my girl there." 

It is difficult to set everything down in due order; 
so I must revert here to what happened a week or two 


befoi:e. The medical oflScer of the port had come on 
board my ship to have a look at one of my crew who 
was ailing, and naturally enough he was asked to step 
into the cabin. A fellow-shipmaster of mine was there 
too; and in the conversation, somehow or other, the 
name of Jacobus came to be mentioned. It was pro- 
nounced with no particular reverence by the other man, 
T believe. I don't remember now what I was going to 
say. The doctor — a pleasant, cultivated fellow, with 
an assured manner — ^prevented me by striking in, in a 
sour tone: 

"Ah! You're talking about my respected papa-in- 

Of course, that sally silenced us at the time. But I 
remembered the episode, and at this juncture, pushed 
for something non-committal to say, I inquired with 
poKte surprise: 

"You have your married daughter living with you, 
Mr. Jacobus?" 

He moved his big hand from right to left quietly. 
No! That was atiother of his girls, he stated, ponder- 
ously and under his breath as usual. She . . . He 
seemed in a pause to be ransacking his mind for some 
kind of descriptive phrase. But my hopes were dis- 
appointed. He merely produced his stereotyped defi- 

She's a very different sort of person." 
Indeed. . . . And by the by. Jacobus, I called 
on your brother the other day. It's no great compli- 
ment if I say that I found him a very different sort of 
person from you." 

He had an air of profound reflection, then remarked 

"He's a man of regular habits." 

He might have been alluding to the habit of late 


siesta; but I mumbled something about "beastly 
habits anyhow" — and left the store abruptly. 


My little passage with Jacobus the merchant became 
known generally. One or two of my acquaintances 
made distant allusions to it. Perhaps the mulatto 
boy had talked. I must confess that people appeared 
rather scandalised, but not with Jacobus's brutality. 
A man I knew remonstrated with me for my hastiness. 

I gave him the whole story of my visit, not forgetting 
the tell-tale resemblance of the wretched mulatto boy 
to his tormentor. He was not surprised. No doubt, 
no doubt. What of that? In a jovial tone he assured 
me that there must be many of that sort. The elder 
Jacobus had been a bachelor all his life. A highly 
respectable bachelor. But there had never been open 
scandal in that connection. His life had been quite 
regular. It could cause no offence to any one. 

I said that I had been offended considerably. My 
interlocutor opened very tvide eyes. Why? Because 
a mulatto lad got a few knocks? That was not a great 
affair, surely. I had no idea how insolent and un- 
truthful these half-castes were. In fact he seemed to 
think Mr. Jacobus rather kind than otherwise to em- 
ploy that youth at all ; a sort of amiable weakness which 
could be forgiven. 

This acquaintance of mine belonged to one of the 
old French families, descendants of the old colonists; 
all noble, all impoverished, and living a narrow domestic 
life in dull, dignified decay. The men, as a rule, occupy 
inferior posts in Government offices or in business 
houses. The girls are almost always pretty, ignorant 
of the world, kind and agreeable and generally bilingual; 


they prattle innocently both in French and English. 
The emptiness of their existence passes belief. 

I obtained my entry into a couple of such house- 
holds because some years before, in Bombay, I had 
occasion to be of use to a pleasant, ineffectual young 
man who was rather stranded there, not knowing what 
to do with himself or even how to get home to his island 
again. It was a matter of two hundred rupees or so, 
but, when I turned up, the family made a point of show- 
ing their gratitude by admitting me to their intimacy. 
My knowledge of the French language made me 
specially acceptable. They had meantime managed to 
marry the fellow to a woman nearly twice his age^ 
comparatively well off: the only profession he was really 
fit for. But it was not all cakes and ale. The first 
time I called on the couple she spied a little spot of 
grease on the poor devil's pantaloons and made him a 
screaming scene of reproaches so full of sincere passion 
that I sat terrified as at a tragedy of Racine. 

Of course there was never question of the money I 
had advanced him; but his sisters, Miss Angele and 
Miss Mary, and the aunts of both families, who spoke 
quaint archaic French of pre-Revolution period, and 
a host of distant relations adopted me for a friend out- 
right in a manner which was almost embarrassing. 

It was with the eldest brother (he was employed at 
a desk in my consignee's oflSce) that I was having this 
talk about the merchant Jacobus. He regretted my 
attitude and nodded his head sagely. An influential 
man. One never knew when one would need him. I 
expressed my immense preference for the shopkeeper 
of the two. At that my friend looked grave. 

"What on earth are you pulling that long face 
about?'* I cried impatiently. "He asked me to see 
his garden and I have a good mind to go spme day." 


"Don't do that," he said, so earnestly that I burst 
into a fit of laughter; but he looked at me without a 

This was another matter altogether. At one time 
the public conscience of the island had been mightily 
troubled by my Jacobus. The two brothers had been 
partners for years in great harmony, when a wandering 
circus came to the island and my Jacobus became 
suddenly infatuated with one of the lady-riders. What 
made it worse was that he was married. He had not 
even the grace to conceal his passion. It must have 
been strong indeed to carry away such a large placid 
creature. His behaviour was perfectly scandalous. 

He followed that woman to the Cape, and apparently 
travelled at the tail of that beastly circus to other parts 
c f the world, in a most degrading position. The woman 
soon ceased to care for him, and treated him worse 
llian a dog. Most extraordinary stories of moral de- 
gradation were reaching the island at that time. He had 
not the strength of mind to shake himself free. . . 

The grotesque image of a fat, pushing ship-chandler, 
enslaved by an unholy love-spell, fascinated me; and 
I listened rather open-mouthed to the tale as old as the 
world, a tale which had been the subject of legend, of 
moral fables, of poems, but which so ludicrously failed 
to fit the personality. What a strange victim for the 

Meantime his deserted wife had died. His daughter 
was taken care of by his brother, who married her as 
advantageously as was possible in the circumstances. 

" Oh ! The Mrs. Doctor ! '' I exclaimed. 

"You know that? Yes. A very able man. He 
wanted a lift in the world, and there was a good bit 
of money from her mother, besides the expectations. 
. . . Of course, they don't know him," he added, 


**The doctor nods in the street, I believe, but he avoids 
speaking to him when they meet on board a ship, as 
must happen sometimes." 

I remarked that this surely was an old story by now. 

My friend assented. But it was Jacobus's own fault 
that it was neither forgiven nor forgotten. He came 
back ultimately. But how? Not in a spirit of con-^ 
trition, in a way to propitiate his scandalised fellow^ 
citizens. He must needs drag along with him a child 
— a girl, i . . 

"He spoke to me of a daughter who lives with him," 
I observed, very much interested. 

"She's certainly the daughter of the circus-woman," 
said my friend. " She may be his daughter too; I am wil- 
ling to admit that she is. In fact I have no doubt " 

But he did not see why she should have been brought 
into a respectable community to perpetuate the mem- 
ory of the scandal. And that was not the worst. 
Presently something much more distressing happened. 
That abandoned woman turned up. Landed from a 
mail-boat. . . . 

"What! Here? To claim the child perhaps," I 

"Not she!" My friendly info^rmant was very scorn- 
ful. "Imagine a painted, haggard, agitated, desperate 
hag. Been cast off in Mozambique by somebody who 
paid her passage here. She had been injured internally 
by a kick from a horse; she hadn't a cent on her when 
she got ashore; I don't think she even asked to see the 
child. At any rate, not till the last day of her life. 
Jacobus hired for her a bungalow to die in. He got a 
couple of Sisters from the hospital to nurse her through 
these few months. If he didn't marry her in extremis 
as the good Sisters tried to bring about, it's because she 
wouldn't even hear of it. As the nuns said: 'The 


woman died impenitent.' It was reported that she 
ordered Jacobus out of the room with her last breath. 
This may be the real reason why he didn't go into 
mourning himself; he only put the child into black. 
While she was little she was to be seen sometimes about 
the streets attended by a negro woman, but since she 
became of age to put her hair up I don't think she has 
set foot outside that garden once. She must be over 
eighteen now." 

Thus my friend, with some added details; such as, 
that he didn't think the girl had spoken to three people 
cf any position in the island; that an elderly female 
relative of the brothers Jacobus had been induced by 
extreme poverty to accept the position of gouvemante 
to the girl. As to Jacobus's business (which certainly 
annoyed his brother) it was a wise choice on his part. 
It brought him in contact only with strangers of pas- 
sage; whereas any other would have given rise to all 
sorts of awkwardness with his social equals. The man 
was not wanting in a certain tact — only he was naturally 
shameless. For why did he want to keep that girl with 
him? It was most painful for everybody. 

I thought suddenly (and with profound disgust) of 
the other Jacobus, and I could not refrain from saying 

"I suppose if he employed her, say, as a scullion in 
his household and occasionally pulled her hair or boxed 
her ears, the position would have been more regular — 
less shocking to the respectable class to which he be- 

He was not so stupid as to miss my intention, and 
shrugged his shoulders impatiently. 

"You don't imderstand. To begin with, she's not 
a mulatto. And a scandal is a scandal. People should 
be given a chance to forget. I dare say it would have 


been better for her if she had been turned into a scullion 
or something of that kind. Of course he's trying to 
make money in every sort of petty way, but in such a 
business there'll never be enough for anybody to come 

When my friend left me I had a conception of Jacobus 
and his daughter existing, a lonely pair of castaways, 
on a desert island; the girl sheltering in the house as if 
it were a cavern in a cliff, and Jacobus going out to pick 
up a living for both on the beach — exactly like two ship- 
wrecked people who always hope for some rescuer to 
bring them back at last into touch with the rest of man- 

But Jacobus's bodily reality did not fit in with this 
romantic view. When he turned up on board in the 
usual course, he sipped the cup of coffee placidly, asked 
me if I was satisfied — and I hardly listened to the har- 
bour gossip he dropped slowly in his low, voice-saving 
enunciation. I had then troubles of my own. My ship 
chartered, my thoughts dwelling on the success of a 
quick round voyage, I had been suddenly confronted by 
a shortage of bags. A catastrophe! The stock of one 
especial kind, called pockets, seemed to be totally ex- 
hausted. A consignment was shortly expected — it 
was afloat, on its way, but, meantime, the loading of my 
ship dead stopped, I had enough to worry about. My 
consignees, who had received me with such heartiness on 
my arrival, now, in the character of my charterers, 
listened to my complaints with polite helplessness. 
Their manager, the old-maidish, thin man, who so 
prudishly didn't even like to speak about the impure 
Jacobus, gave me the correct commercial view of the 

"My dear Captain" — ^he was retracting his leathery 
cheeks into a condescending, shark-like smile — "we 


were not morally obliged to tell you of a possible 
shortage before you signed the charter-party. It was 
for you to guard against the contingency of a delay — 
strictly speaking. But of course we shouldn't have 
taken any advantage. This is no one's fault really. 
We ourselves have been taken unawares," he concluded 
primly, with an obvious lie. 

This lecture I confess had made me thirsty. Sup- 
pressed rage generally produces that effect; and as I 
strolled on aimlessly I bethought myself of the tall 
earthenware pitcher in the captains' room of the 
Jacobus "store." 

With no more than a nod to the men I found as- 
sembled there, I poured down a deep, cool draught 
on my indignation, then another, and then, becoming 
dejected, I sat plunged in cheerless reflections. The 
others read, talked, smoked, bandied over my head 
some unsubtle chaff. But my abstraction was re- 
spected. And it was without a word to any one that I 
rose and went out, only to be quite unexpectedly ac- 
costed in the bustle of the store by Jacobus the outcast. 

"Glad to see you. Captain. What? Going away? 
You haven't been looking so well these last few days, 
I notice. Run down, eh?" 

He was in his shirt-sleeves, and his words were in 
the usual course of business, but they had a human 
note. It was commercial amenity, but I had been a 
stranger to amenity in that connection. I do verily 
believe (from the direction of his heavy glance towards 
a certain shelf) that he was going to suggest the pur- 
chase of Clarkson's Nerve Tonic, which he kept in 
stock, when I said impulsively: 

"I am rather in trouble with my loading." 

Wide awake under his sleepy, broad mask with glued 
lips, he understood at oi^pe. had ^movement of the 


head so appreciative that I relieved my exasperation 
by explaining : 

"Surely there must be eleven hundred quarter-bags 
to be found in the colony. It's only a matter of looking 
for them." 

Again that slight movement of the big head, and in 
the noise and activity of the store that tranquil murmur: 

"To be sure. But then people likely to have a 
reserve of quarter-bags wouldn't want to sell. They'd 
need that size themselves." 

"That's exactly what my consignees are telling me. 
Impossible to buy. Bosh! They don't want to. It 
suits them to have the ship hung up. But if I were to 

discover the lot they would have to Look here, 

Jacobus! You are the man to have such a thing up 
your sleeve." 

He protested with a ponderous swing of his big head. 
1 stood before him helplessly, being looked at by those 
heavy eyes with a veiled expression as of a man after 
some soul-shaking crisis. Then, suddenly: 

"It's impossible to talk quietly here," he whispered. 
"I am very busy. But if you could go and wait for 
me in my house. It's less than ten minutes' walk. 
Oh, yes, you don't know the way." 

He called for his coat and offered to take me there 
himself. He would have to return to the store at once 
for an hour or so to finish his business, and then he 
would be at liberty to talk over with me that matter of 
quarter-bags. This programme was breathed out at 
me through slightly parted, still lips; his heavy, motion- 
less glance rested upon me, placid as ever, the glance of 
a tired man — but I felt that it was searching, too. I 
could not imagine what he was looking for in me and 
kept silent, wondering. 

"I am asking '^-ou to wait for me in my house 


till I am at liberty to talk this matter over. You 

"Why, of com-se!" I cried, 

"But I cannot promise " 

"I dare say not,'* I said. "I don't expect a promise." 

"I mean I can't even promise to try the move I've 
in my mind. One must see first . . . h'm!" 

"All right. I'll take the chance. I'll wait for you 
as long as you like. What else have I to do in this 
infernal hole of a port!" 

Before I had uttered my last words we had set off at 
a swinging pace. We turned a couple of comers and 
entered a street completely empty of traflSc, of semi- 
rural aspect, paved with cobblestones nestling in grass 
tufts. The house came to the line of the roadway; a 
single story on an elevated basement of rough-stones, so 
that our heads were below the level of the windows as 
we went along. All the jalousies were tightly shut, like 
eyes, and the house seemed fast asleep in the afternoon 
sunshine. The entrance was at the side, in an aUey 
even more grass-grown than the street: a small door, 
simply on the latch. 

With a word of apology as to showing me the way, 
Jacobus preceded me up a dark passage and led me 
across the naked parquet floor of what I supposed to 
be the dining room. It was lighted by three glass doors 
which stood wide open on to a verandah or rather loggia 
running its brick arches along the garden side of the 
house. It was really a magnificent garden: smooth 
green lawns and a gorgeous maze of flower-beds in the 
foreground, displayed around a basin of dark water 
framed in a marble rim, and in the distance the massed 
foliage of varied trees concealing the roofs of other 
houses. The town might have been miles away. It 
was a brilliantly coloured solitude, drowsing in a warm. 


voluptuous silence. Where the long, still shadows fell 
across the beds, and in shady nooks, the massed colours 
of the flowers had an extraordinary magnificence of 
effect. I stood entranced. Jacobus grasped me deli- 
cately above the elbow, impelling me to a half-tiun to 
the left. 

I had not noticed the girl before. She occupied a 
low, deep, wickerwork arm-chair, and I saw her in 
exact profile like a figure in a tapestry, and as motionless. 
Jacobus released my arm. 

"This is Alice," he announced tranquiUy; and his 
subdued manner of speaking made it sound so much 
like a confidential communication that I fancied my- 
self nodding understandingly and whispering: "I see, 
I see." ... Of course, I did nothing of the kind. 
Neither of us did anything; we stood side by side looking 
down at the girl. For quite a time she did not stir, 
staring straight before her as if watching the vision of 
some pageant passing through the garden in the deep, 
rich glow of light and the splendour of flowers. 

Then, coming to the end of her reverie, she looked 
round and up. If I had not at first noticed her, I 
am certain that she too had been unaware of my 
presence till she actually perceived me by her father's 
side. The quickened upward movement of the heavy 
eyelids, the widening of the languid glance, passing into 
a fixed stare, put that beyond doubt. 

Under her amazement there was a hint of fear, and 
then came a flash as of anger. Jacobus, after uttering 
my name fairly loud, said: "Make yourself at home. 
Captain — I won't be gone long," and went away rapidly. 
Before I had time to make a bow I was left alone with 
the girl — who, I remembered suddenly, had not been 
seen by any man or woman of that town since she had 
foimd it necessary to put up her hair. It looked as 


though it had not been touched again since that distant 
time of first putting up; it was a mass of black, lustrous 
locks, twisted anyhow high on her head, with long, un- 
tidy wisps hanging down on each side of the clear sal- 
low face; a mass so thick and strong and abundant that, 
nothing but to look at, it gave you a sensation of heavy 
pressure on the top of your head and an impression of 
magnificently cynical untidiness. She leaned forward, 
hugging herself with crossed legs; a dingy, amber- 
coloured, flounced wrapper of some thin stuff revealed 
the young supple body drawn together tensely in the 
deep low seat as if crouching for a spring. I detected 
a slight, quivering start or two, which looked un- 
commonly like bounding away. They were followed by 
the most absolute immobility. 

The absurd impulse to run out after Jacobus (for I 
had been startled, too) once repressed, I took a chair, 
placed it not very far from her, sat down deliberately, 
and began to talk about the garden, caring not what 
I said, but using a gentle caressing intonation as one 
talks to soothe a startled wild animal. I could not even 
be certain that she understood me. She never raised 
her face nor attempted to look my way. I kept on 
talking only to prevent her from taking flight. She had 
another of those quivering, repressed starts which made 
me catch my breath with apprehension. 

Ultimately I formed a notion that what prevented 
her perhaps from going off in one great, nervous leap, 
was the scantiness of her attire. The wicker arm-chair 
was the most substantial thing about her person. 
What she had on under that dingy, loose, amber wrap- 
per must have been of the most flimsy and airy charac- 
ter. One could not help being aware of it. It was 
obvious. I felt it actually embarrassing at first; but 
that sort of embarrassment is got over easily by a mind 


not enslaved by narrow prejudices. I did not avert my 
gaze from Alice. I went on talking with ingratiating 
softness, the recollection that, most likely, she had 
never before been spoken to by a strange man adding 
to my assurance. I don't know why an emotional 
tenseness should have crept into the situation. But it 
did. And just as I was becoming aware of it a slight 
scream cut short my flow of urbane speech. 

The scream did not proceed from the girl. It was 
emitted behind me, and caused me to turn my head 
sharply. I understood at once that the apparition in 
the doorway was the elderly relation of Jacobus, the 
companion, the gouvemante. While she remained 
thunderstruck, I got up and made her a low bow. 

The ladies of Jacobus's household evidently spent 
their days in light attire. This stumpy old woman 
with a face like a large wrinkled lemon, beady eyes, 
and a shock of iron-grey hair, was dressed in a garment 
of some ash-coloured, silky, light stuff. It fell from 
her thick neck down to her toes with the simplicity of 
an unadorned nightgown. It made her appear truly 
cylindrical. She exclaimed : ' ' How did you get here ? ' ' 

Before I could say a word she vanished and presently 
I heard a confusion of shrill protestations in a distant 
part of the house. Obviously no one could tell her how 
I got there. In a moment, with great outcries from 
two negro women following her, she waddled back to 
the doorway, infuriated. 

"What do you want here.^" 

I turned to the girl. She was sitting straight up 
now, her hands posed on the arms of the chair. I ap- 
pealed to her. 

"Surely, Miss Alice, you will not let them drive me 
out into the street?" 

Her magnificent black eyes, narrowed, lon^ in shape, 


swept over me with an indefinable expression, then in 
a harsh, contemptuous voice she let fall in French a 
sort of explanation: 

''C est papa:' 

I made another low bow to the old woman. 

She turned her back on me in order to drive away 
her black henchwomen, then surveying my person in 
a peculiar manner with one small eye nearly closed 
and her face all drawn up on that side as if with a 
twinge of toothache, she stepped out on the verandah, 
sat down in a rocking-chair some distance away, and 
took up her knitting from a little table. Before she 
started at it she plunged one of the needles into the 
mop of her grey hair and stirred it vigorously. 

Her elementary nightgown-sort of frock clung to her 
ancient, stumpy, and floating form. She wore white 
totton stockings and flat brown velvet slippers. Her 
feet and ankles were obtrusively visible on the foot- 
rest. She began to rock herself slightly, while she 
knitted. I had resumed my seat and kept quiet, for 
I mistrusted that old woman. What if she ordered 
me to depart? She seemed capable of any outrage. 
She had snorted once or twice; she was knitting vio- 
lently. Suddenly she piped at the young girl in French 
a question which I translate colloquially: 

"What's your father up to, now?" 

The young creature shrugged her shoulders so com- 
prehensively that her whole body swayed within the 
loose wrapper; and in that unexpectedly harsh voice 
which yet had a seductive quality to the senses, like 
certain kinds of natural rough wines one drinks with 

"It's some captain. Leave me alone — will you!" 

The chair rocked quicker, the old, thin voice was 
like a whistle. 


"You and your father make a pair. He would stick 
at nothing — that's well known. But I didn't expect 

I thought it high time to air some of my own French. 
I remarked modestly, but firmly, that this was business. 
I had some matters to talk over with Mr. Jacobus. 

At once she piped out a derisive "Poor innocent!" 
Then, with a change of tone: "The shop's for busi- 
ness. Why don't you go to the shop to talk with him? " 

The furious speed of her fingers and knitting-needles 
made one dizzy; and with squeaky indignation: 

"Sitting here staring at that girl — is that what you 
call business?" 

"No," I said suavely. "I call this pleasure — an un- 
expected pleasure. And unless Miss Alice objects " 

I half turned to her. She flung at me an angry and 
contemptuous "Don't care!" and leaning her elbow on 
her knees took her chin in her hand — a Jacobus chin 
undoubtedly. And those heavy eyelids, this black 
irritated stare reminded me of Jacobus, too — ^the 
wealthy merchant, the respected one. The design of 
her eyebrows also was the same, rigid and ill-omened. 
Yes! I traced in her a resemblance to both of them. 
It came to me as a sort of surprising remote inference 
that both these Jacobuses were rather handsome men 
after all. I said: 

"Oh! Then I shall stare at you till you smile." 

She favoured me again with an even more viciously 
scornful "Don't care!" 

The old woman broke in blunt and shrill : 

"Hear his impudence! And you too! Don't care! 
Go at least and put some more clothes on. Sitting 
there Kke this before this sailor riff-raff." 

The sun was about to leave the Peari of the Ocean 
for other seas, for other lands. The walled garden full 


of shadows blazed with colour as if the flowers were 
giving up the light absorbed during the day. The 
amazing old woman became very explicit. She sug- 
gested to the girl a corset and a petticoat with a cynical 
unreserve which humiliated me. Was I of no more 
account than a wooden dummy? The girl snapped 
out: "Shan't!" 

It was not the naughty retort of a vulgar child; it had 
a note of desperation. Clearly my intrusion had some- 
how upset the balance of their established relations. 
The old woman knitted with furious accuracy, her eyes 
fastened down on her work. 

"Oh, you are the true child of your father! And 
that talks of entering a convent! Letting herself be 
stared at by a fellow." 

"Leave off." 

"Shameless thing!" 

"Old sorceress," the girl uttered distinctly, preserv- 
ing her meditative pose, chin in hand, and a far-away 
stare over the garden. 

It was like the quarrel of the kettle and the pot. The 
old woman flew out of the chair, banged down her work, 
and with a great play of thick limb perfectly visible in 
that weird, clinging garment of hers, strode at the girl — 
who never stirred. I was experiencing a sort of trepi- 
dation when, as if awed by that unconscious attitude, 
the aged relative of Jacobus turned short upon me. 

She was, I perceived, armed with a knitting-needle; 
and as she raised her hand her intention seemed to be 
to throw it at me like a dart. But she only used it 
to scratch her head with, examining me the while at 
close range, one eye nearly shut and her face distorted 
by a whimsical, one-sided grimace. 

"My dear man," she asked abruptly, "do you expect 
any good to come of this?" 


"I do hope so indeed, Miss Jacobus.*' I tried to 
speak in the easy tone of an afternoon caller. "You 
see, I am here after some bags." 

"Bags! Look at that now! Didn't I hear you 
holding forth to that graceless wretch.'^" 

"You would like to see me in my grave," uttered 
the motionless giri hoarsely. 

"Grave! What about me.'^ Buried alive before I 
am dead for the sake of a thing blessed with such a 
pretty father!" she cried; and turning to me: "You're 
one of those men he does business with. Well — why 
don't you leave us in peace, my good fellow?" 

It was said in a tone — this "leave us in peace." 
There was a sort of ruflSanly familiarity, a superiority, 
a scorn in it. I was to hear it more than once, for you 
would show an imperfect knowledge of human nature 
if you thought that this was my last visit to that house — 
where no respectable person had put foot for ever so 
many years. No, you would be very much mistaken 
if you imagined that this reception had scared me away. 
First of all I was not going to run before a grotesque and 
ruffianly old woman. 

And then you mustn't forget these necessary bags. 
That first evening Jacobus made me stay to dinner; 
after, however, telling me loyally that he didn't know 
whether he could do anything at all for me. He had 
been thinking it over. It was too difficult, he feared. 
. . . But he did not give it up in so many words. 

We were only three at table; the girl by means of 
repeated "Won't!" ^'Shan't!" and "Don't care!" 
having conveyed and affirmed her intention not to come 
to the table, not to have any dinner, not to move from 
the verandah. The old relative hopped about in her 
flat slippers and piped indignantly, Jacobus towered 
over her and murmured placidly in his throat; I joined 


jocularly from a distance, throwing in a few words, 
for which under the cover of the night I received secretly 
a most vicious poke in the ribs from the old woman's 
elbow or perhaps her fist. I restrained a cry. And all 
the time the girl didn't even condescend to raise her 
head to look at any of us. All this may sound child- 
ish — and yet that stony, petulant suUenness had an 
obscurely tragic flavour. 

And so we sat down to the food around the light of 
a good many candles while she remained crouching out 
there, staring in the dark as if feeding her bad temper on 
the heavily scented air of the admirable garden. 

Before leaving I said to Jacobus that I would come 
next day to hear if the bag affair had made any progress. 
He shook his head slightly at that. 

"I'll haunt your house daily till you pull it off. 
You'll be always finding me here." 

His faint, melancholy smile did not part his thick 

"That will be all right. Captain." 

Then seeing me to the door, very tranquil, he mur- 
mured earnestly the recommendation: "Make your- 
self at home," and also the hospitable hint about there 
being always "a plate of soup." It was only on my 
way to the quay, down the ill-lighted streets, that I 
remembered I had been engaged to dine that very 

evening with the S family. Though vexed with 

my forgetfulness (it would be rather awkward to ex- 
plain) I couldn't help thinking that it had procured 
me a more amusing evening. And besides — ^business. 
The sacred business . 

In a barefooted negro who overtook me at a run and 
bolted down the landing-steps I recognised Jacobus's 
boatman, who must have been feeding in the kitchen. 
His usual "Good-night, sah!" as I went up my ship's 


ladder had a more cordial sound than on previous 

I KEPT my word to Jacobus. I haunted his home. 
He was perpetually finding me there of an afternoon 
when he popped in for a moment from the "store." 
The sound of my voice talking to his Alice greeted him 
on his doorstep; and when he returned for good in the 
evening, ten to one he would hear it still going on in 
the verandah. I just nodded to him; he would sit down 
heavily and gently, and watch with a sort of approving 
anxiety my eflForts to make his daughter smile. 

I called her often "Alice," right before him; some- 
times I would address her as Miss "Don't Care," and 
I exhausted myself in nonsensical chatter without 
succeeding once in taking her out of her peevish and" 
. tragic self. There were moments when I felt I must 
break out and start swearing at her till all was blue. 
And I fancied that had I done so Jacobus would not 
have moved a muscle. A sort of shady, intimate under- 
standing seemed to have been established between us. 

I must say the girl treated her father exactly in the 
same way she treated me. 

And how could it have been otherwise? She treated 
me as she treated her father. She had never seen a 
visitor. She did not know how men behaved. I be- 
longed to the low lot with whom her father did business 
at the port. I was of no account. So was her father. 
The only decent people in the world were the people of 
the island, who would have nothing to do with him be- 
cause of something wicked he had done. This was 
apparently the explanation Miss Jacobus had given her 
of the household's isolated position* For she had to be 


told something! And I feel convinced that this version 
had been assented to by Jacobus. I must say the old 
woman was putting it forward with considerable gusto. 
It was on her lips the universal explanation, the uni- 
versal allusion, the universal taunt. 

One day Jacobus came in early and, beckoning me 
into the dining-room, wiped his brow with a weary 
gesture and told me that he had managed to unearth 
a supply of quarter-bags. 

"It's fourteen hundred your ship wanted, did you 
say, Captain?" 

"Yes, yes!" I replied eagerly; but he remained calm. 
He looked more tired than I had ever seen him before. 

"Well, Captain, you may go and tell your people' 
that they can get that lot from my brother." 

As I remained open-mouthed at this, he added his 
usual placid formula of assurance: 
You'll find it correct. Captain." 
You spoke to your brother about it?" I was 
distinctly awed. "And for me? Because he must 
have known that my ship's the only one hung up for 
bags. How on earth " 

He wiped his brow again. I noticed that he was 
dressed with unusual care, in clothes in which I had 
never seen him before. He avoided my eye. 

"You've heard people talk, of course. . . . That's 
true enough. He . . . I . . . We certainly 
. . . for several years . . ." His voice declined 
to a mere sleepy murmur. "You see I had something 
to tell him of, something which " 

His murmur stopped. He was not going to tell me 
what this something was. And I didn't care. Anxious 
to carry the news to my charterers, I ran back on the 
verandah to get my hat. 

At the bustle I made the girl turned her eyes slowly 



in my direction, and even the old woman was checked 
in her knitting. I stopped a moment to exclaim ex- 
citedly : 

"Your father's a brick, Miss Don't Care. That's 
what he is." 

She beheld my elation in scornful surprise. Jacobus 
with unwonted familiarity seized my arm as I flew 
through the dining-room, and breathed heavily at me a 
proposal about "A plate of soup" that evening. I 
answered distractedly: "Eh.^ What? Oh, thanks! 
Certainly. With pleasure," and tore myself away, 
Dine with him? Of course. The merest gratitude • 

But some three hours afterwards, in the dusky, 
silent street, paved with cobble-stones, I became 
aware that it was not mere gratitude which was guid- 
ing my steps towards the house with the old garden, 
where for years no guest other than myself had ever 
dined. Mere gratitude does not gnaw at one's interior 
economy in that particular way. Hunger might; but 
I was not feeling particularly hungry for Jacobus's 

On that occasion, too, the girl refused to come to the 

My exasperation grew. The old woman cast ma- 
licious glances at me. I said suddenly to Jacobus: 
"Here! Put some chicken and salad on that plate." 
He obeyed without raising his eyes. I carried it with 
a knife and fork and a serviette out on the verandah. 
The garden was one mass of gloom, like a cemetery of 
flowers buried in the darkness, and she, in the chair, 
seemed to muse mournfully over the extinction of light 
and colour. Only whiffs of heavy scent passed like 
wandering, fragrant souls of that departed multitude 
of blossoms. I talked volubly, jocularly, persuasively, 
tenderly; I talked in a subdued tone. To a listener it 


would have sounded like the murmur of a pleading 
lover. Whenever I paused expectantly there was only 
a deep silence. It was like offering food to a seated 

"I haven't been able to swallow a single morsel think- 
ing of you out here starving yourself in the dark. It's 
positively cruel to be so obstinate. Think of my suf- 

"Don't care." 

I felt as if I could have done her some violence — 
shaken her, beaten her maybe. I said: 

"Your absurd behaviour will prevent me coming 
here any more." 

"What's that to me?" 

"You like it." 

"It's false," she snarled. 

My hand fell on her shoulder; and if she had flinched 
I verily believe I would have shaken her. But there 
was no movement and this immobility disarmed my 

"You do. Or you wouldn't be found on the veran- 
dah every day. Why are you here, then? There are 
plenty of rooms in the house. You have your own room 
to stay in — if you did not want to see me. But you do. 
You know you do." 

I felt a slight shudder under my hand and released 
my grip as if frightened by that sign of animation in 
her body. The scented air of the garden came to us 
in a warm wave like a voluptuous and perfumed sigh. 

"Go back to them," she whispered, almost piti- 

As I re-entered the dining-room I saw Jacobus cast 
down his eyes. I banged the plate on the table. At 
this demonstration of ill-humour he murmured some- 
thing in an apologetic tone, and I turned on him 


viciously as if he were accountable to me for these 
abominable eccentricities," I believe I called them. 
But I dare say Miss Jacobus here is responsible 
for most of this offensive manner," I added loftily. 

She piped out at once in her brazen, ruflSanly manner: 

"Eh? Why don't you leave us in peace, my good 

I was astonished that she should dare before Jacobus. 
Yet what could he have done to repress her? He needed 
her too much. He raised a heavy, drowsy glance for an 
instant, then looked down again. She insisted with 
shrill finality : 

"Haven't you done your business, you two? Well, 
then " 

She had the true Jacobus impudence, that old woman. 
Her mop of iron-grey hair was parted on the side like a 
man's, raflSshly, and she made as if to plunge her fork 
into it, as she used to do with the knitting-needle, but 
refrained. Her little black eyes sparkled venomously. 
I turned to my host at the head of the table — men- 
acingly as it were. 

"Well, and what do you say to that. Jacobus? Am 
I to take it that we have done with each other?" 

I had to wait a little. The answer when it came 
was rather unexpected, and in quite another spirit 
than the question. 

"I certainly think we might do some business yet 
with those potatoes of mine. Captain. You will find 
that " 

I cut him short. 

"I've told you before that I don't trade." 

His broad chest heaved without a sound in a noiseless 

"Think it over. Captain," he murmured, tenacious 
and tranquil; and J burst into ^ jarring laugh, r^- 


membering how he had stuck to the circus-rider woman 
— the depth of passion under that placid surface, which 
even cuts with a riding-whip (so the legend had it) 
could never ruffle into the semblance of h storm; some- 
thing like the passion of a fish would be if one could 
imagine such a thing as a passionate fish. 

That evening I experienced more distinctly than ever 
the sense of moral discomfort which always attended 
me in that house lying under the ban of all "decent" 
people. I refused to stay on and smoke after dinner; 
and when I put my hand into the thickly cushioned 
palm of Jacobus, I said to myself that it would be for 
the last time under his roof. I pressed his bulky paw 
heartily nevertheless. Hadn't he • got me out of a 
serious difficulty? To the few words of acknowledge- 
ment I was bound, and indeed quite willing, to utter, he 
answered by stretching his closed lips in his melancholy, 
glued-together smile. 

"That will be all right, I hope. Captain," he breathed 
out weightily. 

"What do you mean.'^" I asked, alarmed. "That 
your brother might yet " 

"Oh, no," he reassured me. "He . . . he's a 
man of his word. Captain." 

My self-communion as I walked away from his door, 
trying to believe that this was for the last time, was not 
satisfactory. I was aware myself that I was not 
sincere in my reflections as to Jacobus's motives, and, 
of course, the very next day I went back again. 

How weak, irrational, and absurd we are! How 
easily carried away whenever our awakened imagina- 
tion brings us the irritating hint of a desire! I cared 
for the girl in a particular way, seduced by the moody 
expression of her face, by her obstinate silences, her 
rare, scornful words; by the perpetual pout of her closed 


lips, the black depths of her fixed gaze turned slowly 
upon me as if in contemptuous provocation, only to be 
averted next moment with an exasperating indifference. 

Of course the news of my assiduity had spread all 
over the little town. I noticed a change in the manner 
of my acquaintances and even something different in 
the nods of the other captainsj when meeting them at 
the landing-steps or in the oflSces, where business called 
me. The old-maidish head clerk treated me with 
distant punctiliousness and, as it were, gathered his 
skirts round him for fear of contamination. It seemed 
to me that the very, niggers on the quays turned to 
look after me as I passed; and as to Jacobus's boatman 
his "Good-night sah!" when he put me on board was 
no longer merely cordial — it had a familiar, confiden- 
tial sound as though we had been partners in some 

My friend S the elder passed me on the other 

side of the street with a wave of the hand and an 
ironic smile. The younger brother, the one they had 
married to an elderly shrew, he, on the strength of 
an older friendship and as if paying a debt of gratitude, 
took the liberty to utter a word of warning. 

"You're doing yourself no good by your choice of 
friends, my dear chap," he said with infantile gravity. 

As I knew that the meeting of the brothers Jacobus 
was the subject of excited comment in the whole of 
the sugary Pearl of the Ocean I wanted to know why I 
was blamed. 

"I have been the occasion of a move which may 
end in a reconciliation surely desirable from the point 
of view of the proprieties — don't you know?" 

"Of course, if that girl were disposed of it would 
certainly facilitate " he mused sagely, then, in- 
consequential creature, gave me a light tap on the 


lower part of my waistcoat. "You old sinner," he 
cried jovially, "much you care for proprieties. But 
you had better look out for yourself, you know, with 
a personage like Jacobus who has no sort of reputation 
to lose." 

He had recovered his gravity of a respectable 
citizen by that time and added regretfully: 

"All the women of our family are perfectly scandal- 

But by that time I had given up visiting the S 

family and the D family. The elder ladies pulled 

such faces when I showed myself, and the multitude 
of related young ladies received me with such a 
variety of looks: wondering, awed, mocking (except 
Miss Mary, who spoke to me and looked at me with 
hushed, pained compassion as though I had been ill), 
that I had no diflSculty in giving them all up. I would 
have given up the society of the whole town, for the 
sake of sitting near that girl, snarling and superb and 
barely clad in that flimsy, dingy, amber wrapper, open 
low at the throat. She looked, with the wild wisps of 
hair hanging down her tense face, as though she had 
just jumped out of bed in the panic of a fire. 

She sat leaning on her elbow, looking at nothing. 
Why did she stay listening to my absurd chatter? 
And not only that; but why did she powder her face 
in preparation for my arrival.^ It seemed to be her 
idea of making a toilette, and in her untidy negligence 
a sign of great effort towards personal adornment. 

But I might have been mistaken. The powdering 
might have been her daily practice and her presence 
in the verandah a sign of an indifference so complete 
as to take no account of my existence. Well, it was all 
one to me. 

I loved to watch her slow changes of pose, to look at 


her long immobilities composed in the graceful lines of 
her body, to observe the mysterious narrow stare of her 
splendid black eyes, somewhat long in shape, half 
closed, contemplating the void. She was like a spell- 
bound creature with the forehead of a goddess crowned 
by the dishevelled magnificent hair of a gipsy tramp. 
Even her indifference was seductive. I felt myself 
growing attached to her by the bond of an irrealizable 
desire, for I kept my head — quite. And I put up with 
the moral discomfort of Jacobus's sleepy watchfulness, 
tranquil, and yet so expressive; as if there had been a 
tacit pact between us two. I put up with the in- 
solence of the old woman's: "Aren't you ever going 
to leave us in peace, my good fellow.^" with her taunts; 
with her brazen and sinister scolding. She was of the 
true Jacobus stock, and no mistake. 

Directly I got away from the girl I called myself 
many hard names. What folly was this.^ I would 
ask myself. It was like being the slave of some 
depraved habit. And I returned to her with my 
head clear, my heart certainly free, not even moved 
by pity for that castaway (she was as much of a 
castaway as any one ever wrecked on a desert island), 
but as if beguiled by some extraordinary promise. 
Nothing more unworthy could be imagined. The 
recollection of that tremulous whisper when I gripped 
her shoulder with one hand and held a plate of chicken 
with the other was enough to make me break all my 
good resolutions. 

Her insulting taciturnity was enough sometimes to 
make one gnash one's teeth with rage. When she 
opened her mouth it was only to be abominably rude 
in harsh tones to the associate of her reprobate father; 
and the full approval of her aged relative was conveyed 
to her by offensive chuckles- If not that, then her 


remarks, always uttered in the tone of scathing con^ 
tempt, were of the most appalling inanity. 

How could it have been otherwise? That plump, 
ruffianly Jacobus old maid in the tight grey frock had 
never taught her any manners. Manners I suppose 
are not necessary for born castaways. No educational 
establishment could ever be induced to accept her as a 
pupil — on account of the proprieties, I imagine. And 
Jacobus had not been able to send her away anywhere. 
How could he have done it? Whom with? Where to? 
He himself was not enough of an adventurer to think 
of settling down anywhere else. His passion had 
tossed him at the tail of a circus up and down strange 
coasts, but, the storm over, he had drifted back shame- 
lessly where, social outcast as he was, he remained still 
a Jacobus — one of the oldest families on the island, 
older than the French even. There must have been a 
Jacobus in at the death of the last Dodo. . . . The 
girl had learned nothing, she had never listened to a 
general conversation, she knew nothing, she had heard 
of nothing. She could read certainly; but all the read- 
ing matter that ever came in her way were the news- 
papers provided for the captains' room of the "store." 
Jacobus had the habit of taking these sheets home 
now and then in a very stained and ragged condi- 

As her mind could not grasp the meaning of any 
matters treated there except police-court reports and 
accounts of crimes, she had formed for herself a notion 
of the civilised world as a scene of murders, abductions, 
burglaries, stabbing affrays, and every sort of desperate 
violence. England and France, Paris and London 
(the only two towns of which she seemed to have 
heard), appeared to her sinks of abomination, reeking 
with blood, in contrast to her little island where petty 


larceny was about the standard of current misdeeds, 
with, now and then, some more pronounced crime — 
and that only amongst the imported cooKe labourers 
on sugar estates or the negroes of the town. But in 
Europe these things were being done daily by a wicked 
population of white men amongst whom, as that 
ruflSanly, aristocratic old Miss Jacobus pointed out, 
the wandering sailors, the associates of her precious 
papa, were the lowest of the low. 

It was impossible to give her a sense of proportion. I 
suppose she figured England to herself as about the 
size of the Pearl of the Ocean; in which case it would 
certainly have been reeking with gore and a mere 
wreck of burgled houses from end to end. One could 
not make her understand that these horrors on which 
she fed her imagination were lost in the mass of orderly 
life like a few drops of blood in the ocean. She directed 
upon me for a moment the uncomprehending glance 
of her narrowed eyes and then would turn her scornful 
powdered face away without a word. She would not 
even take the trouble to shrug her shoulders. 

At that time the batches of papers brought by the 
last mail reported a series of crimes in the East End of 
London, there was a sensational case of abduction in 
France and a fine display of armed robbery in Australia. 
One afternoon crossing the dining-room I heard Miss 
Jacobus piping in the verandah with venomous animos- 
ity: "I don't know what your precious papa is plot- 
ting with that fellow. But he's just the sort of man 
who's capable of carrying you off far away somewhere 
and then cutting your throat some day for your 

There was a good half of the length of the verandah 
between their chairs. I came out and sat down fiercely 
midway between them. 


** Yes, that's what we do with girls in Europe," I be- 
gan in a grimly matter-of-fact tone. I think Miss 
Jacobus was disconcerted by my sudden appearance. 
I turned upon her with cold ferocity: 

"As to objectionable old women, they are first 
strangled quietly, then cut up into small pieces and 
thrown away, a bit here and a bit there. They 
vanish " 

I cannot go so far as to say I had terrified her. But 
she was troubled by my truculence, the more so be- 
cause I had been always addressing her with a politeness 
she did not deserve. Her plump, knitting hands fell 
. slowly on her knees. She said not a word while I fixed 
her with severe determination. Then as I turned away 
from her at last, she laid down her work gently and, 
with noiseless movements, retreated from the verandah. 
In fact, she vanished. 

But I was not thinking of her. I was looking at the 
girl. It was what I was coming for daily; troubled^ 
ashamed, eager; finding in my nearness to her a unique 
sensation which I indulged with dread, self-contempt, 
and deep pleasure, as if it were a secret vice bound to 
end in my undoing, like the habit of some drug or other 
which ruins and degrades its slave. 

I looked her over, from the top of her dishevelled 
head, down the lovely line of the shoulder, following 
the curve of the hip, the draped form of the long limb, 
right down to her fine ankle below a torn, soiled flounce; 
and as far as the point of the shabby, high-heeled, blue 
slipper, dangling from her well-shaped foot, which she 
moved slightly, with quick, nervous jerks, as if im- 
patient of my presence. And in the scent of the 
massed flowers I seemed to breathe her special and 
inexplicable charm- the heady perfume of the ever- 
lastingly irritated captive of the garden. 


I looked at her rounded chin, the Jacobus chin; at 
the full, red lips pouting in the powdered, sallow face; 
at the firm modelling of the cheek, the grains of white 
in the hairs of the straight sombre eyebrows; at the 
long eyes, a narrowed gleam of liquid white and intense 
motionless black, with their gaze so empty of thought, 
and so absorbed in their fixity that she seemed to be 
staring at her own lonely image, in some far-oif mirror 
hidden from my sight amongst the trees. 

And suddenly, without looldng at me, with the 
appearance of a person speaking to herself, she asked, 
in that voice slightly harsh yet mellow and always 
irritated : 

Why do you keep on coming here?" 
Why do I keep on coming here?" I repeated, 
taken by surprise. I could not have told her. I could 
not even tell myself with sincerity why I was coming 
there. "What's the good of you asking a question 
like that?" 

"Nothing is any good," she observed scornfully to 
the empty air, her chin propped on her hand, that 
hand never extended to any man, that no one had ever 
grasped — for I had only grasped her shoulder once — 
that generous, fine, somewhat masculine hand. I 
knew well the peculiarly efficient shape — broad at the 
base, tapering at the fingers — of that hand, for which 
there was nothing in the world to lay hold of. I pre- 
tended to be playful. 

"No! But do you really care to know?" 

She shrugged indolently her magnificent shoulders, 
from which the dingy thin wrapper was slipping a 

"Oh — never mind — never mind!" 

There was something smouldering under those airs 
of lassitude. She exasperated me by the provocation 


of her nonchalance, by something elusive and defiant 
in her very form which I wanted to seize. I said 
roughly : 

"Why? Don't you think I should tell you the 

Her eyes glided my way for a sidelong look, and she 
murmured, moving only her full, pouting lips: 

"I think you would not dare." 

"Do you imagine I am afraid of you? What on 
earth. . . . Well, it's possible, after all, that I 
don't know exactly why I am coming here. Let us say, 
with Miss Jacobus, that it is for no good. You seera 
to believe the outrageous things she says, if you do 
have a row with her now and then." 

She snapped out viciously: 

"Who else am I to believe?" 

"I don't know," I had to own, seeing her suddenly 
very helpless and condemned to moral solitude by the 
verdict of a respectable community. "You might be- 
lieve me, if you chose." 

She made a slight movement and asked me at once, 
with an eflFort as if making an experiment: 

"What is the business between you and papa?" 

"Don't you know the nature of your father's busi- 
ness? Come! He sells provisions to ships." 

She became rigid again in her crouching pose. 

"Not that. What brings you here — to this house?" 

"And suppose it's you? You would not call that 
business? Would you? And now let us drop the 
subject. It's no use. My ship will be ready for sea 
the day after to-morrow." 

She murmured a distinctly scared "So soon," and 
getting up quickly, went to the little table and poured 
herself a glass of water. She walked with rapid steps 
and with an indolent swaying of her whole young figure 


above the hips; when she passed near me I felt with 
tenfold force the charm of the peculiar, promising 
sensation I had formed the habit to seek near her. 1 
thought with sudden dismay that this was the end of 
it; that after one more day I would be no longer able 
to come into this verandah, sit on this chair, and taste 
perversely the flavour of contempt in her indolent 
poses, drink in the provocation of her scornful looks, 
and listen to the curt, insolent remarks uttered in that 
harsh and seductive voice. As if my innermost nature 
had been altered by the action of some moral poison, 
I felt an abject dread of going to sea. 

I had to exercise a sudden self-control, as one puts on 
a brake, to prevent myself jumping up to stride about, 
shout, gesticulate, make her a scene. What for? 
What about.'^ I had no idea. It was just the relief of 
violence that I wanted; and I lolled back in my chair, 
trying to keep my lips formed in a smile; that half- 
indulgent, half-mocking smile which was my shield 
against the shafts of her contempt and the insulting 
sallies flung at me by the old woman. 

She drank the water at a draught, with the avidity 
of raging thirst, and let herself fall on the nearest chair, 
as if utterly overcome. Her attitude, like certain 
tones of her voice, had in it something masculine: the 
knees apart in the ample wrapper, the clasped hands 
hanging between them, her body leaning forward, with 
drooping head. I stared at the heavy black coil of 
twisted hair. It was enormous, crowning the bowed 
head with a crushing and disdained glory. The escaped 
wisps himg straight down. And suddenly I perceived 
that the girl was trembling from head to foot, as though 
that glass of iced water had chilled her to the bone. 

"What's the matter now?" I said, startled, but in 
no very sympathetic mood. 


She shook her bowed, overweighted head and cried 
in a stifled voice but with a rising inflection : 

"Go away! Go away! Go away!" 

I got up then and approached her, with a strange sort 
of anxiety. I looked down at her round, strong neck, 
then stooped low enough to peep at her face. And I 
began to tremble a little myself. 

" What on earth are you gone wild about, Miss Don't 

She flung herself backwards violently, her head going 
over the back of the chair. And now it was her smooth, 
full, palpitating throat that lay exposed to my be- 
wildered stare. Her eyes were nearly closed, with only 
a horrible white gleam under the lids as if she were dead. 

"What has come to you.^" I asked in awe. "What 
are you terrifying yourself with?" 

She pulled herself together, her eyes open frightfully 
wide now. The tropical afternoon was lengthening 
the shadows on the hot, weary earth, the abode of 
obscure desires, of extravagant hopes, of imimaginable 

"Never mind! Don't care!" Then, after a gasp, 
she spoke with such frightful rapidity that I could 
hardly make out the amazing words: "For if you 
were to shut me up in an empty place as smooth all 
round as the palm of my hand, I could always strangle 
myself with my hair." 

For a moment, doubting my ears, I let this in- 
conceivable declaration sink into me. It is ever im- 
possible to guess at the wild thoughts that pass through 
the heads of our fellow-creatures. What monstrous 
imaginings of violence could have dwelt under the low 
forehead of that girl who had been taught to regard 
her father as "capable of anything" more in the light of 
a misfortune Jhan that of ^ disgrp^ce; as, evidently* 


something to be resented and feared rather than to 
be ashamed of? She seemed, indeed, as unaware of 
shame as of anything else in the world; but in her 
ignorance, her resentment and fear took a childish and 
violent shape. 

Of course she spoke without knowing the value of 
words. What could she know of death — she who knew 
nothing of life? It was merely as the proof of her being 
beside herself with some odious apprehension, that this 
extraordinary speech had moved me, not to pity, but to 
a fascinated, horrified wonder. I had no idea what no- 
tion she had of her danger. Some sort of abduction. 
It was quite possible with the talk of that atrocious old 
woman. Perhaps she thought she could be carried oflF, 
bound hand and foot and even gagged. At that 
surmise I felt as if the door of a furnace had been 
opened in front of me. 

"Upon my honour!" I cried. "You will end by 
going crazy if you listen to that abominable old aunt of 
yours " 

I studied her haggard expression, her trembling lips. 
Her cheeks even seemed sunk a little. But how I, the 
associate of her disreputable father, the "lowest of 
the low" from the criminal Europe, could manage 
to reassure her I had no conception. She was ex- 

" Heavens and earth ! What do you think I can do? " 

"I don't know." 

Her chin certainly trembled. And she was looking 
at me with extreme attention. I made a step nearer 
to her chair. 

"I shall do nothing. I promise you that. Will that 
do? Do you understand? I shall do nothing whatever, 
of any kind; and the day after to-morrow I shall be 


What else could I have said? She seemed to drink 
in my words with the thirsty avidity with which she 
had emptied the glass of water. She whispered tremu- 
lously, in that touching tone I had heard once before on 
her lips, and which thrilled me again with the same 
emotion : 

"I would believe you. But what about papa " 

"He be hanged!" My emotion betrayed itself by 
the brutality of my tone. "I've had enough of your 
papa.' Are you so stupid as to imagine that I am 
frightened of him.'^ He can't make me do anything." 

All that sounded feeble to me in the face of her 
ignorance. But I must conclude that the "accent of 
sincerity" has, as some people say, a really irresistible 
power. The effect was far beyond my hopes — and 
even beyond my conception. To watch the change in 
the girl was like watching a miracle — the gradual but 
swift relaxation of her tense glance, of her stiffened 
muscles, of every fibre of her body. That black, fixed 
stare into which I had read a tragic meaning more 
than once, in which I had found a sombre seduction, 
was perfectly empty now, void of all consciousness 
whatever, and not even aware any longer of my pres- 
ence; it had become a little sleepy, in the Jacobus 

But, man being a perverse animal, instead of rejoicing 
at my complete success, I beheld it with astounded and 
indignant eyes. There was something cynical in that 
unconcealed alteration, the true Jacobus shamelessness. 
I felt as though I had been cheated in some rather 
complicated deal into which I had entered against my 
better judgment. Yes, cheated without any regard for, 
at least, the forms of decency. 

With an easy, indolent, and in its indolence supple, 
feline movement, she rose from the chair, so provok- 


ingly ignoring me now, that for very rage I held my 
ground within less than a foot of her. Leisurely and 
tranquil, behaving right before me with the ease of a 
person alone in a room, she extended her beautiful 
arms, with her hands clenched, her body swaying, her 
head thrown back a little, revelling contemptuously in 
a sense of relief, easing her limbs in freedom after all 
these days of crouching, motionless poses when she had 
been so furious and so afraid. 

All this with supreme indifference, incredible, offen- 
sive, exasperating, like ingratitude doubled with 

I ought to have been flattered, perhaps, but, on the 
contrary, my anger grew; her movement to pass by me 
as if I were a wooden post or a piece of furniture, that 
unconcerned movement brought it to a head. 

I won't say I did not know what I was doing, but, 
certainly, cool reflection had nothing to do with the 
circumstance that next moment both my arms were 
round her waist. It was an impulsive action, as one 
snatches at something falling or escaping; and it had no 
hypocritical gentleness about it either. She had no 
time to make a sound, and the first kiss I planted on her 
closed lips was vicious enough to have been a bite. 

She did not resist, and of course I did not stop at 
one. She let me go on, not as if she were inanimate 
— ^I felt her there, close against me, young, full of 
vigour, of life, a strong desirable creature, but as if 
she did not care in the least, in the absolute assurance 
of her safety, what I did or left undone. Our face? 
brought close together in this storm of haphazard 
caresses, her big, black, wide-open eyes looked into 
mine without the girl appearing either angry or pleased 
or moved in any way. In that steady gaze which 
seemed impersonally to watch my madness I could 


detect a slight surprise, perhaps — nothing more. I 
showered kisses upon her face and there did not seem 
to be any reason why this should not go on for ever. 

That thought flashed through my head, and I was 
on the point of desisting, when, all at once, she began 
to struggle with a sudden violence which all but freed 
her instantly, which revived my exasperation with her, 
indeed a fierce desire never to let her go any more. I 
tightened my embrace in time, gasping out: "No — 
you don't!" as if she were my mortal enemy. On her 
part not a word was said. Putting her hands against 
my chest, she pushed with all her might without suc- 
ceeding to break the circle of my arms. Except that 
she seemed thoroughly awake now, her eyes gave me no 
clue whatever. To meet her black stare was like look- 
ing into a deep well, and I was totally unprepared for 
her change of tactics. Instead of trying to tear my 
hands apart, she flung herself upon my breast and with 
a downward, undulating, serpentine motion, a quick 
sliding dive, she got away from me smoothly. It was 
all very swift; I saw her pick up the tail of her wrapper 
and run for the door at the end of the verandah not very 
gracefully. She appeared to be limping a little — and 
then she vanished; the door swung behind her so 
noiselessly that I could not beheve it was completely 
closed. I had a distinct suspicion of her black eye 
being at the crack to watch what I would do. I could 
not make up my mind whether to shake my fist in that 
direction or blow a kiss. 


Either would have been perfectly consistent with 
my feelings. I gazed at the door, hesitating, but 
in the end I did neither. The monition of some sixth 


sense — the sense of guilt, maybe, that sense which 
always acts too late, alas! — warned me to look round; 
and at once I became aware that the conclusion of this 
tumultuous episode was likely to be a matter of lively 
anxiety. Jacobus was standing in the doorway of the 
dining-room. How long he had been there it was im- 
IK)ssible to guess; and remembering my struggle with 
the girl I thought he must have been its mute witness 
from beginning to end. But this supposition seemed 
almost incredible. Perhaps that imj>enetrable girl had 
heard him come in and had got away in time. 

He stepped on to the verandah in his usual manner, 
heavy-eyed, with glued lips. I marvelled at the girl's 
resemblance to this man. Those long, Egyptian eyes, 
that low forehead of a stupid goddess, she had found 
in the sawdust of the circus; but all the rest of the face, 
the design and the modelling, the rounded chin, the 
very lips— all that was Jacobus, fined down, more 
finished, more expressive. 

His thick hand fell on and grasped with force the 
back of a light chair (there were several standing about) 
and I perceived the chance of a broken head at the end 
of all this — most likely. My mortification was extreme. 
The scandal would be horrible; that was unavoidable. 
But how to act so as to satisfy myself I did not know. I 
stood on my guard and at any rate faced him. There 
was nothing else for it. Of one thing I was certain, 
that, however brazen my attitude, it could never equal 
the characteristic Jacobus impudence. 

He gave me his melancholy, glued smile and sat 
down. I own I was relieved. The perspective of 
passing from kisses to blows had nothing particularly 
attractive in it. Perhaps— perhaps he had seen noth- 
ing? He behaved as usual, but he had never before 
foimd me alone on the verandah. K he had alluded to 


it, if he had asked: "Where's Alice?" or something of 
the sort, I would have been able to judge from the tone. 
He would give me no opportunity. The striking 
I>eculiarity was that he had never looked up at me yet. 
"He knows," I said to myself confidently. And my 
contempt for him relieved my disgust with myself. 

"You are early home," I remarked. 

"Things are very quiet; nothing doing at the store 
to-day," he explained with a cast-down air. 

"Oh, well, you know, I am off," I said, feeling that 
this, perhaps, was the best thing to do. 

"Yes," he breathed out. "Day after to-morrow." 

This was not what I had meant; but as he gazed 
I>ersistently on the floor, I followed the direction of 
his glance. In the absolute stillness of the house we 
stared, at the high-heeled slipper the girl had lost in her 
flight. We stared. It lay overturned. 

After what seemed a very long time to me. Jacobus 
hitched his chair forward, stooj>ed with extended arm 
and picked it up. It looked a slender thing in his big, 
thick hands. It was not really a slipper, but a low 
shoe of blue, glazed kid, rubbed and shabby. It had 
straps to go over the instep, but the girl only thrust her 
feet in, after her slovenly manner. Jacobus raised his 
eyes from the shoe to look at me. 

"Sit down, Captain," he said at last, in his subdued 

As if the sight of that shoe had renewed the sj>ell, I 
gave up suddenly the idea of leaving the house there 
and then. It had become impossible. I sat down, 
keeping my eyes on the fascinating object. Jacobus 
turned his daughter's shoe over and over in his cush- 
ioned paws as if studying the way the thing was made. 
He contemplated the thin sole for a time; then glancing 
inside with an absorbed air : 



"I am glad I found you here, Captain/' 

I answered this by some sort of grunt, watching 
him covertly. Then I added : " You won't have much 
more of me now." 

He was still deep in the interior of that shoe on which 
nay ^yes too were resting. 

"Have you thought any more of this deal in potatoes 
I spoke to you about the other day?" 

"No, I haven't," I answered curtly. He checked 
my movement to rise by an austere, commanding 
gesture of the hand holding that fatal shoe. I re- 
mained seated and glared at him. "You know I don't 

"You ought to. Captain. You ought to." 

I reflected. If I left that house now I would never 
see the girl again. And I felt I must see her once more, 
if only for an instant. It was a need, not to be reasoned 
with, not to be disregarded. No, I did not want to go 
away. I wanted to stay for one more experience of that 
strange provoking sensation and of indefinite desire, the 
habit of which had made me — me of all people! — dread 
the prospect of going to sea. 

"Mr. Jacobus," I pronounced slowly. "Do you 
really think that upon the whole and taking various 
matters into consideration — I mean everything, do you 
understand ? — it would be a good thing for me to trade, 
let us say, with you.'^" 

I waited for a while. He went on looking at the 
shoe which he held now crushed in the middle, the 
worn point of the toe and the high heel protruding on 
each side of his heavy fist. 

"That will be all right," he said, facing me squarely 
at last. 

"Are you sure?" 

"You'll find it quite correct. Captain." He had 


uttered his habitual phrases in his usual placid, breath- 
saving voice and stood my hard, inquisitive stare 
sleepily without as much as a wink. 

"Then let us trade," I said, turning my shoulder to 
him. "I see you are bent on it." 

I did not want an open scandal, but I thought that 
outward decency may be bought too dearly at times. 
I included Jacobus, myself, the whole population of the 
island, in the same contemptuous disgust as though we 
had been partners in an ignoble transaction. And the 
remembered vision at sea, diaphanous and blue, of the 
Pearl of the Ocean at sixty miles off; the unsubstantial, 
clear marvel of it as if evoked by the art of a beautiful 
and pure magic, turned into a thing of horrors too. 
Was this the fortune this vaporous and rare apparition 
had held for me in its hard heart, hidden within the 
shape as of fair dreams and mist? Was this my 

"I think" — ^Jacobus became suddenly audible after 
what seemed the silence of vile meditation — "that you 
might conveniently take some thirty tons. That 
would be about the lot, Captain." 

"Would it? The lot! I dare say it would be con- 
venient, but I haven't got enough money for that." 

I had never seen him so animated. 

"No!" he exclaimed with what I took for the accent 
of grim menace. "That's a pity." He paused, then, 
unrelenting: "How much money have you got. 
Captain?" he inquired with awful directness. 

It was my turn to face him squarely. I did so and 
mentioned the amount I could dispose of. And I per- 
ceived that he was disappointed. He thought it over, 
his calculating gaze lost in mine, for quite a long time 
before he came out in a thoughtful tone with thf 
rapacious suggestion : 


"You could draw some more from your charterers. 
That would be quite easy, Captain." 

"No, I couldn't," I retorted brusquely. "I've drawn 
my salary up to date, and besides, the ship's accounts 
are closed." 

I was growing furious. I pursued: "And I'll tell 
you what: if I could do it I wouldn't." Then throwing 
off all restraint, I added : " You are a bit too much of a 
Jacobus, Mr. Jacobus." 

The tone alone was insulting enough, but he remained 
tranquil, only a little puzzled, till something seemed 
to dawn upon him; but the unwonted light in his eyes 
died out instantly. As a Jacobus on his native heath, 
what a mere skipper chose to say could not touch him, 
outcast as he was. As a ship-chandler he could stand 
anything. All I caught of his mumble was a vague — 
"quite correct," than which nothing could have been 
more egregiously false at bottom — ^to my view, at least. 
But I remembered — I had never forgotten — ^that I must 
see the girl. I did not mean to go. I meant to stay in 
the house till I had seen her once more. 

"Look here!" I said finally. "I'll tell you what 
I'll do. I'll take as many of your confounded potatoes 
as my money will buy, on condition that you go off at 
once down to the wharf to see them loaded in the 
lighter and sent alongside the ship straight away. 
Take the invoice and a signed receipt with you. Here's 
the key of my desk. Give it to Bums. He will pay 


He got up from his chair before I had finished speak- 
ing, but he refused to take the key. Bums would 
never do it. He wouldn't like to ask him even, 

"Well, then," I said, eyeing him slightingly, "there's 
nothing for it, Mr. Jacobus, but you must wait on 
board till I come off to settle with you." 


"That will be all right. Captain. I will go at once/' 

He seemed at a loss what to do with the. girl's shoe 
he was still holding in his fist. Finally, looking dully 
at me, he put it down on the chair from which he had 

"And you, Captain? Won't you come along, too, 
just to see " 

"Don't bother about me. I'll take care of myself." 

He remained perplexed for a moment, as if trying 
to understand; and then his weighty: "Certainly, 
certainly. Captain," seemed to be the outcome of some 
sudden thought. His big chest heaved. Was it a 
^igh.'^ As he went out to hurry oflF those potatoes he 
never looked back at me. 

I waited till the noise of his footsteps had died out 
of the dining-room, and I waited a little longer. Then 
turning towards the distant door I raised my voice 
along the verandah: 


Nothing answered me, not even a stir behind the 
door. Jacobus's house might have been made empty 
for me to make myself at home in. I did not call again. 
I had become aware of a great discouragement. I was 
mentally jaded, morally dejected. I turned to the gar- 
den again, sitting down with my elbows spread on the 
low balustrade, and took my head in my hands. 

The evening closed uj>on me. The shadows 
lengthened, deepened, mingled together into a pool of 
twilight in which the flower-beds glowed like coloured 
embers; whiffs of heavy scent came to me as if the dusk 
of this hemisphere were but the dimness of a temple and 
the garden an enormous censer swinging before the 
altar of the stars. The colours of the blossoms deepened, 
losing their glow one by one. 

The girl, when I turned my head at a slight noise» 


appeared to me very tall and slender, advancing with 
a swaying limp, a floating and uneven motion which 
ended in the sinking of her shadowy form into the deep 
low chair. And I don't know why or whence I received 
the impression that she had come too late. She ought 
to have appeared at my call. She ought to have . . . 
It was as if a supreme opportunity had been missed. 

I rose and took a seat close to her, nearly opposite 
her arm-chair. Her ever discontented voice addressed 
me at once, contemptuously: 

"You are still here." 

I pitched mine low. 

"You have come out at last." 

"I came to look for my shoe — before they bring in 
the lights." 

It was her harsh, enticing whisper, subdued, not 
very steady, but its low tremulousness gave me no 
thrill now. I could only make out the oval of her 
face, her uncovered throat, the long, white gleam of 
her eyes. She was mysterious enough. Her hands 
were resting on the arms of the chair. But where 
was the mysterious and provoking sensation ^which 
was like the perfume of her flower-like youth .'^ I said 
quietly : 

"I have got your shoe here." She made no sound 
and I continued: "You had better give me your foot 
and I will put it on for you." 

She made no movement. I bent low down and 
groped for her foot under the flounces of the wrapper. 
She did not withdraw it and I put on the shoe, button- 
ing the instep-strap. It was an inanimate foot. I 
lowered it gently to the floor. 

"If you buttoned the strap you would not be losing 
your shoe. Miss Don't Care," I said, trying to be play- 
ful without conviction. I felt more like wailing over 


the lost illusion of vague desire, over the sudden con- 
viction that I would never find again near her the 
strange, half-evil, halMender sensation which had 
given its acrid flavour to so many days, which had 
made her appear tragic and promising, pitiful and pro- 
voking. That was all over. 

**Your father picked it up," I said, thinking she 
might just as well be told of the fact. 

"I am not afraid of papa — ^by himself," she declared 

"Oh! It's only in conjunction with his disreputable 
associates, strangers, the * riff-raff of Europe' as your 
charming aunt or great-aunt says — men like me, for 
instance — that you ' ' 

"I am not afraid of you," she snapped out. 

"That's because you don't know that I am now doing 
business with your father. Yes, I am in fact doing 
exactly what he wants me to do. I've broken my 
promise to you. That's the sort of man I am. And 
now — aren't you afraid.^ If you believe what that dear, 
kind, truthful old lady says you ought to be." 

It was with unexpected modulated softness that she 
affirmed : 

"No. I am not afraid." She hesitated. . . . 
"Not now." 

"Quite right. You needn't be. I shall not see you 
again before I go to sea." I rose and stood near her 
chair. "But I shall often think of you in this old 
garden, passing under the trees over there, walking 
between these gorgeous flower-beds. You must love 
this garden " 

"I love nothing." 

I heard in her sullen tone the faint echo of that re- 
sentfully tragic note which I had found once so pro- 
voking. But it left me unmoved except for a sudden 


and weary conviction of the emptiness of all things 
under Heaven. 

"Good-bye, Alice," I said. 

She did not answer, she did not move. To merely 
take her hand, shake it, and go away seemed impossible, 
almost improper. I stooped without haste and pressed 
my lips to her smooth forehead. This was the moment 
when I realised clearly with a sort of terror my com- 
plete detachment from that unfortunate creature. And 
as I lingered in that cruel self-knowledge I felt the light 
touch of her arms falling languidly on my neck and re- 
ceived a hasty, awkward, haphazard kiss which missed 
my lips. No! She was not afraid; but I was no longer 
moved. Her arms slipped oflF my neck slowly, she made 
no sound, the deep wicker arm-chair creaked slightly; 
only a sense of my dignity prevented me fleeing head- 
long from that catastrophic revelation. 

I traversed the dining-room slowly. I thought: 
She's listening to my footsteps; she can't help it; she'll 
hear me open and shut that door. And I closed it as 
gently behind me as if I had been a thief retreating with 
his ill-gotten booty. During that stealthy act I ex- 
perienced the last touch of emotion in that house, at the 
thought of the girl I had left sitting there in the ob- 
scurity, with her heavy hair and empty eyes as black 
as the night itself, staring into the walled garden, silent, 
warm, odorous with the perfume of imprisoned flowers, 
which, like herself, were lost to sight in a world buried 
in darkness. 

The narrow, ill-lighted, rustic streets I knew so well 
on my way to the harbour were extremely quiet. I 
felt in my heart that the further one ventures the better 
one understands how everything in our life is common, 
short, and empty; that it is in seeking the unknown in 
our sensations that we discover how mediocre are our 


attempts and how soon defeated! Jacobus's boatman 
was waiting at the steps with an unusual air of readiness. 
He put me alongside the ship, but did not give me his 
confidential "Good-evening, sah," and, instead of shov- 
ing off at once, remained holding by the ladder. 

I was a thousand miles from commercial affairs, when 
on the dark quarter-deck Mr. Burns positively rushed 
at me, stammering with excitement. He had been 
pacing the deck distractedly for hours awaiting my 
arrival. Just before sunset a lighter loaded with pota- 
toes had come alongside with that fat ship-chandler him- 
self sitting on the pile of i^acks. He was now stuck im- 
movable in the cabin. What was the meaning of it 
all.? Surely I did not 

"Yes, Mr. Burns, I did," I cut him short. He was 
beginning to make gestures of despair when I stopped 
that, too, by giving him the key of my desk and desiring 
him, in a tone which admitted of no argument, to go 
below at once, pay Mr. Jacobus's bill, and send him 
out of the ship. 

"I don't want to see him," I confessed frankly, 
climbing the poop-ladder. I felt extremely tired. 
Dropping on the seat of the skylight, I gave myself up 
to idle gazing at the lights about the quay and at the 
black mass of the mountain on the south side of the 
harbour. I never heard Jacobus leave the ship with 
every single sovereign of my ready cash in his pocket. 
I never heard anything till, a long time afterwards, Mr. 
Bums, unable to contain himself any longer, intruded 
upon me with his ridiculously angry lamentations at 
my weakness and good nature. 

"Of course, there's plenty of room in the after-hatch. 
But they are sure to go rotten down there. Well! I 
never heard . . . seventeen tons! I suppose 1 
must hoist in that lot first thing to-morrow morning." 


"I suppose you must. Unless you drop them over- 
board. But I'm afraid you can't do that. I wouldn't 
mind myself, but it's forbidden to throw rubbish into 
the harbour, you know." 

"That is the truest word you have said for many a 
day, sir — rubbish. That's just what I expect they are. 
Nearly eighty good gold sovereigns gone; a perfectly 
clean sweep of your drawer, sir. Bless me if I under- 

As it was impossible to throw the right light on this 
commercial transaction I left him to his lamentations 
and under the impression that I was a hopeless fool. 
Next day I did not go ashore. For one thing, I had no 
money to go ashore with — no, not enough to buy a 
cigarette. Jacobus had made a clean sweep. But that 
was not the only reason. The Pearl of the Ocean had 
in a few short hours grown odious to me. And I did not 
want to meet any one. My reputation had suflFered. I 
knew I was the object of unkind and sarcastic comments. 

The following morning at sunrise, just as our stern- 
fasts had been let go and the tug plucked us out from 
between the buoys, I saw Jacobus standing up in his 
boat. The nigger was pulling hard; several baskets of 
provisions for ships were stowed between the thwarts. 
The father of Alice was going his morning round. His 
countenance was tranquil and friendly. He raised his 
arm and shouted something with great heartiness. 
But his voice was of the sort that doesn't carry any 
distance; all I could catch faintly, or rather guess at, 
were the words "next time" and "quite correct." 
And it was only of these last that I was certain. Rais- 
ing my arm perfunctorily for all response, I turned 
away. I rather resented the familiarity of the thing. 
Hadn't I settled accounts finally with him by means of 
that potato bargain? 


This being a harbour story it is not my purpose to 
speak of our passage. I was glad enough to be at sea, 
but not with the gladness of old days. Formerly I had 
no memories to take away with me. I shared in the 
blessed forgetfulness of sailors, that forgetfulness 
natural and invincible, which resembles innocence in 
so far that it prevents self-examination. Now how- 
ever I remembered the girl. During the first few days 
I was for ever questioning myself as to the nature of 
facts and sensations connected with her person and 
with my conduct. 

And I must say also that Mr. Bums' intolerable 
fussing with those potatoes was not calculated to make 
me forget the part which I had played. He looked 
upon it as a purely commercial transaction of a par- 
ticularly foolish kind, and his devotion — if it was 
devotion and not mere cussedness as I came to regard 
it before long — inspired him with a zeal to minimise 
my loss as much as possible. Oh, yes! He took care 
of those infamous potatoes with a vengeance, as the 
saying goes. 

Everlastingly, there was a tackle over the after-hatch 
and everlastingly the watch on deck were pulling up, 
spreading out, picking over, rebagging, and lowering 
down again, some part of that lot of potatoes. My 
bargain with all its remotest associations, mental and 
visual— the garden of flowers and scents, the girl with 
her provoking contempt and her tragic loneliness of a 
hopeless castaway — was everlastingly dangled before 
my eyes, for thousands of miles along the open sea. 
And as if by a satanic refinement of irony it was accom- 
panied by a most awful smell. WhiflFs from decaying 
potatoes pursued me on the poop, they mingled with 
my thoughts, with my food, poisoned my very dreams. 
They made an atmosphere of corruption for the ship. 


I remonstrated with Mr. Bums about this excessive 
care. I would have been well content to batten the 
hatch down and let them perish under the deck. 

That perhaps would have been unsafe. The horrid 
emanations might have flavoured the cargo of sugar. 
They seemed strong enough to taint the very ironwork. 
In addition Mr. Burns made it a personal matter. He 
assured me he knew how to treat a cargo of potatoes at 
sea — had been in the trade as a boy, he said. He 
meant to make my loss as small as possible. What be- 
t\7een his devotion — it must have been devotion — and 
his vanity, I positively dared not give him the order to 
throw my commercial venture overboard. I believe he 
would have refused point blank to obey my lawful com- 
mand. An unprecedented and comical situation would 
have been created with which I did not feel equal to 

I welcomed the coming of bad weather as no sailor 
had ever done. When at last I hove the ship to, to 
pick up the pilot outside Port Philip Heads, the after- 
hatch had not been opened for more than a week and 
I might have believed that no such thing as a potato 
had ever been on board. 

It was an abominable day, raw, blustering, with great 
squalls of wind and rain; the pilot, a cheery person, 
looked after the ship and chatted to me, streaming 
from head to foot; and the heavier the lash of the down- 
pour the more pleased with himself and everything 
around him he seemed to be. He rubbed his wet hands 
with a satisfaction, which to me, who had stood that 
kind of thing for several days and nights, seemed in- 
conceivable in any non-aquatic creature. 

"You seem to enjoy getting wet, Pilot,'* I remarked. 

He had a bit of land round his house in the suburbs 
and it was of his garden he was thinking. At the sound 


of the word garden, unheard, unspoken for so many 
days, I had a vision of gorgeous colour, of sweet scents, 
of a girlish figure crouching in a chair. Yes. That 
was a distinct emotion breaking into the peace I had 
found in the sleepless anxieties of my responsibility dur- 
ing a week of dangerous bad weather. The Colony, 
the pilot explained, had suflFered from unparalleled 
drought. This was the first decent drop of water they 
had had for seven months. The root crops were lost. 
And, trying to be casual, but with visible interest, he 
asked me if I had perchance any potatoes to spare. 

Potatoes! I had managed to forget them. In a 
moment I felt plunged into corruption up to my neck. 
Mr. Burns was making eyes at me behind the pilot's 

Finally, he obtained a ton, and paid ten pounds for 
it. This was twice the price of my bargain with 
Jacobus. The spirit of covetousness woke up in me. 
That night, in harbour, before I slept, the Custom 
House galley came alongside. While his underlings 
were putting seals on the store-rooms, the oflScer in 
charge took me aside confidentially. "I say. Captain, 
you don't happen to have any potatoes to sell?" 

Clearly there was a potato famine in the land. I 
let him have a ton for twelve pounds and he went away 
joyfully. That night I dreamt of a pile of gold in the 
form of a grave in which a girl was buried, and woke 
up callous with greed. On calling at my ship-broker's 
office, that man, after the usual business had been 
transacted, pushed his spectacles up on his forehead. 

"I was thinking. Captain, that coming from the 
Pearl of the Ocean you may have some potatoes to 

I said negligently : " Oh, yes, I could spare you a ton. 
Fifteen pounds." 


He exclaimed: "I say!" But after studying my 
face for a while accepted my terms with a faint grimace. 
It seems that these i>eople could not exist without 
potatoes. I could. I didn't want to see a potato as 
long as I lived; but the demon of lucre had taken 
possession of me. How the news got about I don't 
know, but, returning on board rather late, I found a 
small group of men of the coster type hanging about 
the waist, while Mr. Bums walked to and fro the 
quarter-deck loftily, keeping a triumphant eye on them. 
They had come to buy potatoes. 

"These chaps have been waiting here in the sun for 
hours," Bums whispered to me excitedly. "They have 
drunk the water-cask dry. Don't you throw away 
your chances, sir. You are too good-natured." 

I selected a man with thick legs and a man with a 
cast in his eye to negotiate with; simply because they 
were easily distinguishable from the rest. "You have 
the money on you?" I inquired, before taking them 
down into the cabin. 

"Yes, sir," they answered in one voice, slapping their 
pockets. I liked their air of quiet determination. 
Long before the end of the day all the potatoes were 
sold at about three times the price I had paid for them. 
Mr. Burns, feverish and exulting, congratulated him- 
self on his skilful care of my commercial venture, but 
hinted plainly that I ought to have made more of it. 

That night I did not sleep very well. I thought of 
Jacobus by fits and starts, between snatches of dreams 
concerned with castaways starving on a desert island 
covered with flowers. It was extremely unpleasant. 
In the morning, tired and unrefresh^d, I sat down and 
wrote a long letter to my owners, giving them a care- 
fully-thought-out scheme for the ship's employment in 
the East and about the China Seas for the next two 


years. I spent the day at that task and felt somewhat 
more at peace when it was done. 

Their reply came in due course. They were greatly 
struck with my project; but considering that, not- 
withstanding the unfortunate diflBculty with the bags 
(which they trusted I would know how to guard against 
in the future), the voyage showed a very fair profit, 
they thought it would be better to keep the ship in the 
sugar trade — at least for the present. 

I turned over the page and read on : 

"We have had a letter from our good friend Mr. 
Jacobus. We are pleased to see how well you have 
hit it off with him; for, not to speak of his assistance 
in the unfortunate matter of the bags, he writes us that 
should you, by using all possible dispatch, manage to 
bring the ship back early in the season he would be able 
to give us a good rate of freight. We have no doubt 
tbat your best endeavours . . . etc. . . . 

I dropped the letter and sat motionless for a long 
time. Then I wrote my answer (it was a short one) 
and went ashore myself to post it. But I passed one 
letter-box, then another, and in the end found myself 
going up Collins Street with the letter still in my 
pocket — against my heart. Collins Street at four 
o'clock in the afternoon is not exactly a desert solitude; 
but I had never felt more isolated from the rest of man- 
kind than wiien 1 walked that day its crowded pave- 
ment, battling desperately with my thoughts and 
feeling already vanquished. 

There came a moment when the awful tenacity of 
Jacobus, the man of one passion and of one idea, ap- 
peared to me almost heroic. He had not given me 
up. He had gone again to his odious brother. And 
then he appeared to me odious himself. Was it for 


his own sake or for the sake of the poor girl? And on 
that last supposition the memory of the kiss which 
missed my lips appalled me; for whatever he had seen, 
or guessed at, or risked, he knew nothing of that. Un- 
less the girl had told him. How could I go back to fan 
that fatal spark with my cold breath.^ No, no, that 
unexpected kiss had to be paid for at its full price. 

At the first letter-box I came to I stopped and reach- 
ing into my breast-pocket I took out the letter — it was 
as if I were plucking out my very heart — and dropped it 
through the slit. Then I went straight on board. 

I wondered what dreams I would have that night; 
but as it turned out I did not sleep at all. At breakfast 
I informed Mr. Bums that I had resigned my command. 

Hi" dropped his knife and fork and looked at me 
with indignation. 

You have, sir! I thought you loved the ship." 
So I do, Bums," I said. "But the fact is that the 
Indian Ocean and everything that is in it has lost its 
charm for me. I am going home as passenger by the 
Suez Canal." 

"Everything that is in it," he repeated angrily. "I've 
never heard anybody talk like this. And to tell you 
the truth, sir, all the time we have been together I've 
never quite made you out. What's one ocean more 
than another? Charm, indeed!" 

He was really devoted to me, I believe. But he 
cheered up when I told him that I had recommended 
him for my successor. 

"Anyhow," he remarked, "let people say what they 
like, this Jacobus has served your turn. I must admit 
that this potato business has paid extremely well. Of 
course, if only you had " 

"Yes, Mr. Burns," I interrupted. "Quite a smile of 




But I could not tell him that it was driving me out 
of the ship I had learned to love. And as I sat heavy- 
hearted at that parting, seeing all my plans destroyed, 
my modest future endangered — for this command was 
like a foot in the stirrup for a young man — ^he gave up 
completely for the first time his critical attitude. 

"A wonderful piece of luck!" he said. 




On my right hand there were lines of fishing-stakes 
resembling a mysterious system of half-submerged 
bamboo fences, incomprehensible in its division of the 
domain of tropical fishes, and crazy of aspect as if 
abandoned for ever by some nomad tribe of fishermei 
now gone to the other end of the ocean; for there wae 
no sign of human habitation as far as the eye could 
reach. To the left a group of barren islets, suggesting 
ruins of stone walls, towers, and blockhouses, had its 
foundations set in a blue sea that itself looked solid, 
so still and stable did it lie below my feet; even the track 
of light from the westering sun shone smoothly, without 
that animated glitter which tells of an imperceptible 
ripple. And when I turned my head to take a parting 
glance at the tug which had just left us anchored out- 
side the bar, I saw the straight line of the flat shore 
joined to the stable sea, edge to edge, with a perfect and 
unmarked closeness, in one levelled floor half brown, 
half blue under the enormous dome of the sky. Corre- 
sponding in their insignificance to the islets of the sea, 
two small clumps of trees, one on each side of the only 
fault in the impeccable joint, marked the mouth of the 
river Meinam we had just left on the first preparatory 
stage of our homeward journey; and, far back on the in- 
land level, a larger and loftier mass, the grove sur- 
rounding the great Paknam pagoda, was the only thing 
on which the eye could rest from the vain task of ex- 



ploring the monotonous sweep of the horizon. Here 
and there gleams as of a few scattered pieces of silver 
marked the windings of the great river; and on the 
nearest of them, just within the bar, the tug steaming 
right into the land became lost to my sight, hull and 
funnel and masts, as though the impassive earth had 
swallowed her up without an eflfort, without a tremor. 
My eye followed the light cloud of her smoke, now here, 
now there, above the plain, according to the devious 
curves of the stream, but always fainter and farther 
away, till I lost it at last behind the mitre-shaped hill 
of the great pagoda. AnH tlipn T was Ipff f^|nnp witji 

TYiy chip I nnnVinrprl at , tliP lipgri nf tliP (^|]]f of Siam . 

She floated at the starting-point of a long journey, 
^ very still in an immense stillness, the shadows of her 
3pars flung far to the eastward by the setting sun. At 
*" ' chat moment I was alone on her decks. There was 
not a sound in her — and around us nothing moved, 
^ nothing lived, not a canoe on the water, not a bird in 
the air, not a cloud in the sky. In this breathless 
* pause at the threshold of a long passage we seemed to 
be measuring our fitness for a long and arduous enter- 
prise, the appointed^ task of both our existences tojbj 
carried Qut,.Iar~froin all human ^yes^jisdth- on] 
sea for. spectators and^Tor judges. 

There must have been some glare in the air to inter- 
fere with one's sight, because it was only just before the 
sun left us that my roaming eyes made out beyond the 
highest ridge of the principal islet of the group some- 
thing which did away with the solemnity of perfect 
solitude. The tide of darkness flowed on swiftly; and 
with tropical suddenness a swarm of stars came out 
above the shadowy earth, while.I IJRger ed yet, my hand 
resting lightly on my ship's rail as if on the shoulder of 
a trusted friend. But, with all that multitude of 


celestial bodies staring down at one, the comfort of 
quiet communion with her was gone for good. And 
there were also disturbing sounds by tEislmie — voices, 
footsteps forward; the steward flitted along the main- 
deck, a busily ministering spirit; a hand-bell tinkled 
urgently under the poop-deck. . . . 

I found my two officers waiting for me near the supper 
table, in the lighted cuddy. We sat down at once, and 
as I helped the chief mate, I said : 

"Are you aware that there is a ship anchored inside 
the islands.'^ I saw her mastheads above the ridge as 
the sun went down." 

He raised sharply his simple face, overcharged by 
a terrible growth of whisker, and emitted his usual 
ejaculations: "Bless my soul, sir! You don't say 

My second mate was a round-cheeked, silent young 
man, grave beyond his years, I thought; but as our eyes 
happened to meet I detected a slight quiver on his lips. 
I looked down at once. It was not my part to en- 
courage sneering on board my ship. It must be said, 
too, that I knew very little of my officers. In con- 
sequence of certain events of no particular significance, 
except to myself, I had been appointed to the command 
only a fortnight before. Neither did I know much of 
the hands forward. All these people had been together 
for eighteen months or so, and my position was that of 
the only stranger on board. I mention this because it 
has some bearing on what is to follow;. But what I felt 
most was my being a stranger to the ship ; and if all the 
truth must be told, I was somewhat of a stranger to 
myself. The youngest man on board (barring the 
second mate), and untried as yet by a position of the 
fullest responsibility, I was willing to take the adequacy 
of the others for granted. They had simply to be equal 


to their tasks; but I wondered how far I should._tum out 
faithful to that ideal coaceptioin of one's own personahty 
every man sets up for himself secretly. 

Meantime the chief mate, with an almost visible 
effect of collaboration on the part of his round eyes 
and frightful whiskers, was trying to evolve a theory of 
the anchored ship. His dominant trait was to take all 
things into earnest consideration. He was of a pains- 
taking turn of mind. As he used to say, he "liked to 
account to himself" for practically everything that 
came in his way, down to a miserable scorpion he had 
found in his cabin a week before. The why and the 
wherefore of that scorpion — how it got on board and 
came to select his room rather than the pantry (which 
was a dark place and more what a scorpion would be 
partial to), and how on earth it managed to drown itself 
in the inkwell of his writing-desk — had exercised him 
infinitely. The ship within the islands was much more 
easily accounted for; and just as we were about to rise 
from table he made his pronouncement. She was, he 
doubted not, a ship from home lately arrived. Prob- 
ably she drew too much water to cross the bar except 
at the top of spring tides. Therefore she went into that 
natural harbour to wait for a few days in preference 
to remaining in an open roadstead. 

"That's so," confirmed the second mate, suddenly, 
in his slightly hoarse voice. "She draws over twenty 
feet. She's the Liverpool ship Sephora with a cargo of 
coal. Hundred and twenty-three days from Cardiff." 

We looked at him in surprise. 

"The tugboat skipper told me when he came on 
board for your letters, sir," explained the young man. 
"He expects to take her up the river the day after to- 



After thus overwhelming us with the extent of his 
information he shpped out of the cabin. The mate 
observed regretfully that he "could not account for 
that young fellow's whims." What prevented him 
telling us all about it at once, he wanted to know. 

I detained him as he was making a move. For the 
last two days the crew had had plenty of hard work, 
and the night before they had very little sleep. I felt 
painfully that I — a stranger — was doing something un- 
usual when I directed him to let all hands turn in with- 
out setting an anchor- watch. I proposed to keep on 
deck myself till one o'clock or thereabouts. I would 
get the second mate to relieve me at that hour. 

"He will turn out the cook and the steward at four," 
I concluded, "and then give you a call. Of course at 
the slightest sign of any sort of wind we'll have the 
hands up and make a start at once." 

He concealed his astonishment. "Very well, sir." 
Outside the cuddy he put his head in the second mate's 
door to inform him of my unheard-of caprice to take 
a five hours' anchor-watch on myself. I heard the 
other raise his voice incredulously — "What? The 
Captain himself.'^" Then a few more murmurs, a door 
closed, then another. A few moments later I went 
on deck. 

My strangeness, which had made me sleepless, had 
prompted that unconventional arrangement, as ff 1 had 
expected in those solitary hours of. the night to get on 
terms with the ship of which I knew nothing, manned 
by men of whom I knew very little more. Fast along- 
side a wharf, littered like any ship in port with a tangle 
of unrelated- things, invaded by unrelated shore people, 
I had hardly seen her yet properly. Now, as she lay 
cleared for sea, the stretch of her main-deck seemed to 
me very fine under the stars. Very fine, very roomy 


for her size, and very inviting. I descended the poop 
and paced the waist, my mind picturing to myself the 
coming passage through the Malay Archipelago, down 
the Indian Ocean, and up the Atlantic. AH its phases 
were familiar enough to me, every characteristic, all the 
alternatives which were likely to face me on the high 
^eas — everything! . . . except the novel respon- 
f^ibility of command. But I took heart from the reason- 
/able thought that the ship was like other ships, the men 
/ like other men, and that the sea was not likely to keep 
\any special surprises expressly for my discomfiture. 
Arrived at that comforting conclusion, I bethought 
myself of a cigar and went below to get it. All was 
still down there. Everybody at the after end of the 
ship was sleeping profoundly. I came out again on 
the quarterdeck, agreeably at ease in my sleeping- 
suit on that warm breathless night, barefooted, a glow- 
ing cigar in my teeth, and, going forward, I was met 
by the profound silence of the fore end of the ship. 
Only as I passed the door of the forecastle I heard a 
deep, quiet, trustful sigh of some sleeper inside. And 
suddenly I rejoiced in the great security of the sea as 
compared with the unrest of the land, in my choice of 
\ that untempted life presenting no disquieting problems, 
^ invested with an elementary moral beauty by the ab- 
solute straightforwardness of its appeal and by the 
singleness of its purpose. 

The riding-light in the fore-rigging burned with a 
clear, untroubled, as if symbolic, flame, confident and 
bright in the mysterious shades of the night. Passing 
on my way aft along the other side of the ship, I ob- 
served that the rope side-ladder, put over, no doubt, 
for the master of the tug when he came to fetch away 
our letters, had not been hauled in as it should have 
been. I became annoyed at this, for exactitude in 


small matters is the very soul of discipline. Then I ' 
reflected that I had myself peremptorily dismissed my 
officers from duty, and by my own act had prevented 
the anchor- watch being formally set and things properly 
attended to. I asked myself whether it was wise ever 
to interfere with the established routine of duties even 
from the kindest of motives. My action might have 
made me appear eccentric. Goodness only knew how 
thatjabsurdly whiskered mate would *^ account" for 
my conduct, and what the whole ship thought of that 
informality of their new captain. I was vexed with , 
myself. —^ 

Not from compunction certainly, but, as it were 
mechanically, I proceeded to get the ladder in myself. 
Now a side-ladder of that sort is a light affair and comes 
in easily, yet my vigorous tug, which should have 
brought it flying on board, merely recoiled upon my body 
in a totally unexpected jerk. What the devil! . . . 
I was so astounded by the immovableness of that ladder 
that I remained stock-still, trying to account for it to 
myself like that imbecile mate of mine. In the end, of 
course, I put my head over the rail. 

The side of the ship made an opaque belt of shadow 
on the darkling glassy shimmer of the sea. But I 
saw at once something elongated and pale floating 
very close to the ladder. Before I could form a guess 
a faint flash of phosphorescent light, which seemed 
to issue suddenly from the naked body of a man, 
flickered in the sleeping water with the elusive, silent 
play of summer lightning in a night sky. With a gasp 
I saw revealed to my stare a pair of feet, the long legs, 
a broad livid back immersed right up to the neck in a 
greenish cadaverous glow. One hand, awash, clutched 
the bottom rung of the ladder. He was complete but 
for the head. A headless corpse! The cigar dropped 


out of my gaping mouth with a tiny plop and a short 
hiss quite audible in the absolute stillness of all things 
under heaven. At that I suppose he raised up his 
face, a dimly pale oval in the shadow of the ship's side. 
But even then I could only barely make out down there 
the shape of his black-haired head. However, it was 
enough for the horrid, frost-bound sensation which had 
gripped me about the chest to pass off. The moment of 
vain exclamations was past, too. I only climbed on the 
spare spar and leaned over the rail as far as I could, to 
bring my eyes nearer to that mystery floating alongside. 

As he hung by the ladder, like a resting swimmer, 
the sea-lightning played about his limbs at every stir; 
and he appeared in it ghastly, silvery, fish-hke. He 
remained as mute as a fish, too. He made no motion 
to get out of the water, either. It was inconceivable 
that he should not attempt to come on board,^nd 
strangely troubling to suspect that perhaps he-^lid-ndt 
want to. And my first words were prompted by just 
that troubled incertitude. 

"What's the matter?" I asked in my ordinary tone, 
speaking down to the face upturned exactly under 

"Cramp," it answered, no louder. Then slightly 
anxious, "I say, no need to call any one." 

"I was not going to," I said. 

"Are you alone on deck?" 


I had somehow the impression that he was on the 
point of letting go the ladder to swim, a way beyond 
my ken — mysterious as he came. But, for the moment, 
this being appearing as if he had risen from the bottom 
of the sea (it was certainly the nearest land to the 
ship) wanted only to know the time. I told him. And 
he, down there, tentatively: 


I suppose your captain's turned in?" 
I am sure he isn't," I said. 

He seemed to struggle with himself, for I heard some- 
thing Hke the low, bitter murmur of doubt. "What's 
the good.'^ " His next words came out with a hesitating 

"Look here, my man. Could you call him out 

I thought the time had come to declare myself. 

"7 am the captain." 

I heard a "By Jove!" whispered at the level of the 
water. The phosphorescence flashed in the swirl of 
Ihe water all about his limbs, his other hand seized 
the ladder. 

"My name's Leggatt." 

The voice was calm and resolute. A good voice. 
The self-possession of that man had somehow induced 
a corresponding state in myself. It was very quietly 
that I remarked : 

You must be a good swimmer." 
Yes. I've been in the water practically since nine 
o'clock. The question for me now is whether I am to 
leJLgaJjiis ladder and go on swimming till I sink from, 
exhaustion, or — to come on board here." 

I felt this was no mere formula of desperate speech, 
but a real alternative in the view of a strong soul. I 
should have gathered from this that he was young; 
inideed, it is only the young who are ever confronted 
by. sudi clear issues. But at the time it was pure 
intuition on my part. A mysterious communication 
was established already between us two — ^in the face 
of that silent, darkened tropical sea. I was young, 
too; young enough to make no comment. The man in 
the water began suddenly to climb up the ladder, and I 
hastened away from the rail to fetch some clothes. 




Before entering the cabin I stood still, listening in 
the lobby at the foot of the stairs. A faint snore came 
through the closed door of the chief mate's room. The 
second mate's door was on the hook, but the darkness 
in there was absolutely soundless. He, too, was young 
and could sleep like a stone. Remained the steward, 
but he was not likely to wake up before he was called. 
I got a sleeping-suit out of my room and, coming back 
on deck, saw the naked man from the sea sitting on 
the main-hatch, glinoimering white^ jnjii£>-iiarkness. 
his elbows on his knees and "Es head in his han3s. 
In a moment he had concealed his damp body in a 
sleeping-suit of the same grey-stripe pattern as the one 
I was wearing and followed me like my double on 
the poop. Together we moved right aft*. barefooted, 

"What is it?" I asked in a deadened voice, taking 
the lighted lamp out of the binnacle, and raising it to 
his face. 

"An ugly business." 

He had rather regular features; a good mouth; light 
eyes under somewhat heavy, dark eyebrows; a smooth, 
square forehead; no growth on his cheeks; a small, 
brown moustache, and a well-shaped, round chin. 
His expression was concentrated, meditative, under 
the inspecting light of the lamp I held up to his face^ 
such as a man thinking hard in solitude might wear. 
My sleeping-suit was just right for his size. A well- 
knit young fellow of twenty-five at most. He caught 
his lower lip with the edge of white, even teeth. 

"Yes," I said, replacing the lamp in the binnacle. 
The warm, heavy tropical night closed upon his head 

"There's a ship over there," he murmured^ 

"Yes, I know. The Sephora^ Did you know of us? '* 


"Hadn't the slightest idea. I am the mate of 

her '' He paused and corrected himself. "I 

should say I was.'' 

' * Aha ! Something wrong ? ' ' 
Yes. Very wrong indeed. I've killed a man." 
What do you mean? Just now?" 

"No, on the passage. Weeks ago. Thirty-nine 
south. When I say a man " 

"Fit of temper," I suggested, confidently. 

The shadowy, dark head, like mine, seemed to nod 
imperceptibly above the ghostly grey of my sleeping- 
suit. It was, in the night, as though I had been faced 1 
by my own reflection in the depths of a sombre and • 

in»nense mirror. 

A pretty thing to have to own up to for a Conway 
Jboy," murmured my double, distinctly. 

"You're a Conway boy?" 

"I am," he said, as if startled. Then, slowly . • . 
"Perhaps you too " 

It was so; but being a couple of years older I had 
left before he joined. After a quick interchange of 
dates a silence fell; and I thought suddenly of my 
absurd mate with his terrific whiskers and the "Bless 
my soul — ^you don't say so" type of intellect. _My 
double gave me an inkling of his thoughts by saying: 
**My father's a parson in Norfolk. Do you see me 
before a judge and jury on that charge? For myself 
I can't see the necessity. There are fellows that an , 

angel from heaven And I am not that. He was 

one of those creatures that are just simmering all the 
time with a silly sort of wickedness. Miserable devils 
that have no business to live at all. He wouldn't do ' 
his duty and wouldn't let anybody else do theirs. But 
what's the good of talking! You know well enough v 
the sort of ill-conditioaed snarling cur " 


He appealed to me as if our experiences had been as 
identical as our clothes. And I knew well enough the 
pestiferous danger of such a character where there are 
no means of legal repression. And I knew well enough 
also that my double there was no homicidal ruflSan. 
I did not think of asking him for details, and he told me 
the story roughly in brusque, disconnected sentences. 
J needed no more. Lsaw it all going on as though I 
were myself inside that other sleeping-suit. 

"It happened while we were setting a reefed fore- 
sail, at dusk. Reefed foresail! You understand the 
sort of weather. The only sail we had left to keep the 
ship running; so you may guess what it had been like 
for days. Anxious sort of job, that. He gave me 
some of his cursed insolence at the sheet. I tell you 
I was overdone with this terrific weather that seemed 
to have no end to it. Terrific, I tell you — and a deep 
ship. I believe the fellow himself was half crazed with 
funk. It was no time for gentlemanly reproof, so I 
turned round and felled him like an ox. He up and 
at me. We closed just as an awful sea made for the 
ship. All hands saw it coming and took to the rigging, 
} but I had him by the throat, and went on shaking him 
^like a rat, the men above us yelling, *Look out! look 
out!'" Then a crash as if the sky had fallen on my 
head. They say that for over ten minutes hardly any- 
thing was to be seen of the ship — just the three masts 
and a bit of the forecastle head and of the p)oop all 
awash driving along in a smother of foam. It was a 
miracle that they fouiKi us, jammed together behind 
the forebits. It's clear that I meant business, be- 
cause I was holding him by the throat still when they 
picked us up. He was black in the face. It was too 
much for them. It seems they rushed us aft together, 
gripped as we were, screaming * Murder!' like a lot 


of lunatics, and broke into the cuddy. And the ship 
running for her life, touch and go all the time, any 
minute her last in a sea fit to turn your hair grey only 
a-looking at it. I understand that the skipper, too, 
started raving like the rest of them. The man had been 
deprived of sleep for more than a week, and to have this 
sprung on him at the height of a furious gale nearly 
drove him out of his mind. I wonder they didn't fling 
me overboard after getting the carcass of their precious 
ship-mate out of my fingers. They had rather a job tq 
separate us, I've been told. A suflSciently fierce story 
to make an old judge and a respectable jury sit up a bit. 
The first thing I heard when I came to myself was the 
maddening howling of that endless gale, and on that 
the voice of the old man. He was hanging on to my 
bunk, staring into my face out of his sou'wester. 

"*Mr. Leggatt, you have killed a man. You can act 
no longer as chief mate of this ship. ' " 

His care to subdue his voice made it sound monoto- 
nous. He rested a hand on the end of the skylight 
to steady himself with, and all that time did not stir 
a limb, so far as I could see. "Nice little tale fox a 
quiet tea-party," he concluded in the same tone. 

One of my hands, too, rested on the end of the sky- 
light; neither did I stir a limb, so far as I knew. We 
stood less than a foot from each other. It occurred 
to me that if old "Bless my soul — ^you don't say so" 
were-tQ.^ut his head up the companion End catch sight 
of lis, be would think he was seeing double, or imagine 
himself come upon a scene of weird witchcraft; the 
strange captain having a quiet confabulation by the 
wheel with his own grey ghost. I became very much 
concerned to prevent anything of Vie sort. I heard 
the other's soothing undertone. 

"My father's a parson in Norfolk," it said. Evidently 



he had forgotten he had told me this important fact 
before. Truly a nice little tale. 

"You had better slip down into my stateroom now/' 
I said, moving off stealthily. My double followed my 
movements; our bare feet made no sound; I let him in, 
closed the door with care, and, after giving a call to 
the second mate, returned on deck for my relief. 

"Not much sign of any wind yet," I remarked when 
he approached. 

"No, sir. Not much," he assented, sleepily, in his 
hoarse voice, with just enough deference, no more, and 
barely suppressing a yawn. 

"Well, that's all you have to look out for. You 
have got your orders." 

"Yes, sir." 

I paced a turn or two on the pK)op and saw him take 
up his position face forward with his elbow in the 
ratlines of the mizzen-rigging before I went below. 
The mate's faint snoring was still going on peacefully. 
The cuddy lamp was burning over the table on which 
stood a vase with flowers, a polite attention from the 
ship's provision merchant — the last flowers we should 
see for the next three months at the very least. Two 
bunches of bananas hung from the beam symmetrically, 
I one on each side of the rudder-casing. Everything 
[ was as before in the ship — except that two of her cap- 
tain's sleeping-suits were simultaneously in use, one 
motionless in the cuddy, the other keeping very still 
in the captain's stateroom. 

It must be explained here that my cabin had the 
form of the capital letter L the door being within the 
angle and opening into the short part of the letter. A 
couch was to the left, the bed-place to the right; my 
writing-desk and the chronometers' table faced the door. 
But any one opening it, unless he stepped right inside. 


had no view of what I call the long (or vertical) part of 
the letter. It contained some lockers surmounted by 
a bookcase; and a few clothes, a thick jacket or two, 
caps, oilskin coat, and such hke, hung on hooks. There 
was at the bottom of that part a door opening into my 
bath-room, which could be entered also directly from 
the saloon. But that way was never used. 

The mysterious arrival had discovered the advantage 
of this particular shape. Entering my room, lighted 
strongly by a big bulkhead lamp swung on gimbals 
above my writing-desk, I did not see him anywhere 
till he stepped out quietly from behind the coats hung 
in the recessed part. 

"I heard somebody moving about, and went in 
there at once," he whispered. 

I, too, spoke under my breath. 

"Nobody is likely to come in here without knock- 
ing and getting permission." 

He nodded. His face was thin and the sunburn 
faded, as though he had been ill. And no wonder. 
He had been, I heard presently, kept under arrest in 
his cabin for nearly seven weeks. But there was noth- 
ing sickly in his eyes or in his expression. IJe was not 
a^ bit lik e me^ really; yet, as we stood leaning over my 
bed-place^ whispering side by side, with our dark heads 
together and our backs to the door, anybody bold 
enough. to open it stealthily would have been treated to 
the uucanny sight of, a double captain busy talking in 
whispers with his other self. 

"But all this doesn't tell me how you came to hang 
on to our side-ladder," I inquired, in the hardly audible 
murmurs we used, after he had told me something more 
of the proceedings on board the Sephora once the bad 
weather was over. 

"When we sighted Java Head I had had time to 


think all those matters out several times over. I had 
six weeks of doing nothing else, and with only an hour 
or so every evening for a tramp on the quarter-deck." 

He whispered, his arms folded on the side of my bed- 
place, staring through the open port. And I could 
imagine perfectly the manner of this thinking out — a 
stubborn if not a steadfast operation; so methin g of 
which I should have been perfectly incapable. 

'T reckoned it would be dark before we closed with 
the land," he continued, so low that I had to strain my 
hearing, near as we were to each other, shoulder touch- 
ing shoulder almost. "So I asked to speak to the old 
man. He always seemed very sick when he came to 
see me — ^as if he could not look me in the face. You 
know, that foresail saved the ship. She was too deep 
to have run long under bare poles. And it was I that 
managed to set it for him. Anyway, he came. When 
I had him in my cabin — he stood by the door looking at 
me as if I had the halter round my neck already — ^I 
asked him right away to leave my cabin door unlocked 
at night while the ship was going through Sunda 
Straits. There would be the Java coast within two or 
three miles, off Angier Point. I wanted nothing more. 
I've had a prize for swimming my second year in the 

"I can believe it," I breathed out. j 

"God only knows why they locked me in every night. 
To see some of their faces you'd have thought they were 
afraid I'd go about at night strangling people. Am I a 
murdering brute .'^ Do I look it.'^ By Jove! if I had 
been he wouldn't have trusted himself like that into my 
room. You'll say I might have chucked him aside and 
bolted out, there and then — it was dark already. Well, 
no. And for the same reason I wouldn't think of try- 
ing to smash the door. There would have been a rush 


to stop me at the noise, and I did not mean to get into 
a confounded scrimmage. Somebody else might have 
got killed — for I would not have broken out only to get 
chucked back, and I did not want any more of that 
work. He refused, looking more sick than ever. He 
was afraid of the men, and also of that old second mate 
of his who had been sailing with him for years — a, grey- 
headed old humbug; and his steward, too, had been with 
him devil knows how long — seventeen years or more — 
a dogmatic sort of loafer who hated me like poison, just 
because I was the chief mate. No chief mate ever made 
more than one voyage in the Sephora, you know. Those 
two old chaps ran the ship. Devil only knows what 
the skipper wasn't afraid of (all his nerve went to pieces 
altogether in that hellish spell of bad weather we had) — 
of what the law would do to him — of his wife, perhaps. 
Oh, yes! she's on board. Though I don't think she 
would have meddled. She would have been only too 
glad to have me out of the ship in any way. The 
* brand of Cain' business, don't you see. That's all 
right. I was ready enough to go off wandering on the 
face of the earth — and that was price enough to pay foe 
an Abel of that sort. Anyhow, he wouldn't listen to me. 
*This thing must take its course. I represent the law 
here.' He was shaking like a leaf. 'So you won't.^' 
*No!' *Then I hope you will be able to sleep on that,' 
I said, and turned my back on him. 'I wonder that 
you can,' cries he, and locks the door. 

"Well, after that, I couldn't. Not very well. That 
was three weeks ago. We have had a slow passage 
through the Java Sea; drifted about Carimata for ten 
days. When we anchored here they thought, I suppose, 
it was all right. The nearest land (and that's five 
miles) is the ship's destination; the consul would soon 
set about catching me; and there would have been 


no object in bolting to these islets there. I don^t 
suppose there's a drop of water on them. I don't know 
how it was, but to-night that steward, after bringing 
me my supper, went out to let me eat it, and left the 
door unlocked. And I ate it — all there was, too. 
After I had finished I strolled out on the quarter-deck. 
1 don't know that I meant to do anything. A breath of 
fresh air was all I wanted, I believe. Then a sudden 
temptation came over me. I kicked off my slippers and 
was in the water before I had made up my mind fairly. 
Somebody heard the splash and they raised an awful 
hullabaloo. 'He's gone! Lower the boats ! He's com- 
mitted suicide! No, he's swimming.' Certainly I was 
swimming. It's not so easy for a swimmer like me to 
commit suicide by drowning. I landed on the nearest 
islet before the boat left the ship's side. I heard them 
pulling about in the dark, hailing, and so on, but after a 
bit they gave up. Everything quieted down and the 
anchorage became as still as death. I sat down on a 
stone and began to think. I felt certain they would 
start searching for me at daylight. There was no place 
to hide on those stony things — and if there had been, 
what would have been the good? But now I was clear 
of that ship, I was not going back. So after a while I 
took off all my clothes, tied them up in a bundle with 
a stone inside, and dropped them in the deep water on 
the outer side of that islet. That was suicide enough 
for me. Let them think what they liked, but I didiTt 
mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank — 
but that's not the same thing. I struck o> i for another 
of these little, islands, and it was from th it one that I 
first saw your riding-light. Something to swim for. 
I went on easily, and on the way I came upon a flat 
rock a foot or two above water. In the daytime, I 
dare say, you might make it out with a glass from your 


p)oop. I scrambled up on it and rested myself for a bit. 
Then I made another start. That last spell must have 
been over a mile." 

His whisper was getting fainter and fainter, and all 
the time he stared straight out through the port-hole, 
in which there was not even a star to be seen. I had 
not interrupted him. There was something that made 
comment impossible in his narrative, or p^erhaps in 
himself; a sort of feeling, a quality, which I can't find 
a name for. And when he ceased, all I found was a 
futile whisper: "So you swam for our light?" 

"Yes — straight for it. It was something to swim\ 
for. I couldn't see any stars low down because the 
coast was in the way, and I couldn't 'see the land, either. 
The water was like glass. One might have been swim- 
ming in a confounded thousand-feet deep cistern with 
no place for scrambling out anywhere; but what I didn't 
like was the notion of swimming round and round like a 
crazed bullock before I gave out; and as I didn't mean to 
go back . . . No. Do you see me being hauled back, 
stark naked, off one of these little islands by the scruff 
of the neck and fighting like a wild beast .'^ Somebody 
would have got killed for certain, and I did not want 
any of that. So I went on. Then your ladder " 

"Why didn't you hail the ship?" I asked, a little 

He touched my shoulder lightly. Lazy footsteps 
came right over our heads and stopped. The second 
mate had crossed from the other side of the poop and 
might have been hanging over the rail, for all we knew. 

"He couldn't hear us talking — could he?" My 
double breathed into my very eas, anxiously. 

His anxiety was an answer, a suflScient answer, to 
the question I had put to him. An answer containing 
all the diflSculty of that situation. I closed the port- 


hole quietly, to make sure. A louder word might have 
been overheard. 

Who's that?" he whisi>ered then. 
My second mate. But I don't know much more 
of the fellow than you do." 

And I told him a little about myself. I had been 
appointed to take charge while I least expected any- 
thing of the sort, not quite a fortnight ago. I didn't 
know either the ship or the people. Hadn't had the 
time in port to look about me or size anybody up. 
And as to the crew, all they knew was that I was ap- 
pointed to take the ship home. For the rest, I was 
almost as much of a stranger on board as himself, I said. 
And at the moment I felt it most acutely. I felt that 
it would take very little to make me a suspect personTrT 
the eyes of the ship's company. 

He had turned about meantime; and we, the two 
strangers in the ship, faced each other in identical 

"Your ladder " he murmured, after a silence. 

" Who'd have thought of finding a ladder hanging over 
at night in a ship anchored out here! I felt just then 
a very unpleasant faintness. After the life I've been 
leading for nine weeks, anybody would have got out of 
condition. I wasn't capable of swimming round as 
far as your rudder-chains. And, lo and behold! there 
was a ladder to get hold of. After I gripped it I said to 
myself, * What's the good?' When I saw a man's head 
looking over I thought I would swim away presently 
and leave him shouting — in whatever language^ it-waa. 
I didn't mind being looked at. I — I liked it. And 
then you speaking to me so quietly — as if you had ex- 
pected me — made me hold on a little longer. It had 
been a confounded lonely time — ^I don't mean while 
swimming. I was glad to talk a little to somebody that 


didn't belong to the Sephora. As to asking for the 
captain, that was a mere impulse. It could have been 
no use, with all the ship knowing about me and the 
other people pretty certain to be round here in the 
morning. I don't know — ^I wanted to be seen, to 
talk with somebody, before I went on. I don't know 
what I would have said. . . . 'Fine night, isn't 
it?' or something of the sort." 

"Do you think they will be round here presently?" 
I asked with some incredulity. 

"Quite likely," he said, faintly. 

He looked extremely haggard all of a sudden. His 
head rolled on his shoulders. 

"H'm. We shall see then. Meantime get into that 
bed," I whispered. "Want help? There." 

It was a rather high bed-place with a set of drawers 
underneath. This amazing swimmer really needed the 
lift I gave him by seizing his leg. He tumbled in, 
rolled over on his back, and flung one arm across his 
eyes. And then, with his face nearly hidden, he must 
have looked exactly as I used to look in that bed. I 
gazed upon my other self for a while before drawing 
across carefully the two green serge curtains which ran 
on a brass rod. I thought for a moment of pinning 
them together for greater safety, but I sat down on the 
couch, and once there I felt unwilling to rise and hunt 
for a pin. I would do it in a moment. I was ex- 
tremely tired, in a peculiarly intimate way, by the 
strain of stealthiness, by the eflFort of whispering and 
the general secrecy of this excitement. It was three 
o'clock by now and I had been on my feet since nine, 
but I was not sleepy; I could not have gone to sleep. 
I sat there, fagged out, looking at the curtains, trying 
to clear my mind of the confused sensation of being 
in two places at once, and greatly bothered by an 


exasperating knocking in my head. It was a relief to 
discover suddenly that it was not in my head at all, 
but on the outside of the door. Before I could collect 
myself the words "Come in" were out of my mouth, 
and the steward entered with a tray, bringing in my 
morning cofiFee. I had slept, after all, and I was so 
frightened that I shouted, "This way! I am here, 
steward," as though he had been miles away. He put 
down the tray on the table next the couch and only 
then said, very quietly, "I can see you are here, sir." 
I felt him give me a keen look, but I dared not meet 
his eyes just then. He must have wondered why I had 
drawn the curtains of my bed before going to sleep on the 
couch. He went out, hooking the door open as usual. 
I heard the crew washing decks above me. I knew 
I would have been told at once if there had been any 
wind. Calm, I thought, and I was doubly vexed. 
Indeed, I felt dual more than ever. The steward 
reappeared suddenly in the doorway. I jumped up 
f j*om the couch so quickly that he gave a start. 

What do you want here?" 

Close your port, sir — ^they are washing decks." 

It is closed," I said, reddening. 

Very well, sir." But he did not move from the 
doorway and returned my stare in an extraordinary, 
equivocal manner for a time. Then his eyes wavered, 
all his expression changed, and in a voice unusually 
gentle, almost coaxingly: 

May I come in to take the empty cup away, sir? " 

Of course!" I turned my back on him while he 
popped in and out. Then I unhooked and closed the 
door and even pushed the bolt. This sort of thing could 
not go on very long. The cabin was as hot as an oven, 
too. I took a peep at my double, and discovered that he 
had not moved, his arm was still over his eyes; but his 


chest heaved; his hair was wet; his chin glistened with 
perspiration. I reached over him and opened the port. 

"I must show myself on deck," I reflected. 

Of course, theoretically, I could do what I liked, with 
no one to say nay to me within the whole circle of the 
horizon; but to lock my cabin door and take the key 
away I did not dare. Directly I put my head out of 
the companion I saw the group of my two oflBcers, the 
second mate barefooted, the chief mate in long india- 
rubber boots, near the break of the poop, and the 
steward half-way down the poop-ladder talking to 
them eagerly. He happened to catch sight of me and 
dived, the second ran down on the main-deck shouting 
some order or other, and the chief mate came to meet 
me, touching his cap. 

There was a sort of curiosity in his eye that I did not 
like. I don't know whether the steward had told them 
that I was "queer" only, or downright drunk, but I 
know the man meant to have a good look at me. I 
watched him coming with a smile which, as he got into 
point-blank range, took efiFect and froze his very whisk- 
ers. I did not give him time to open his lips. i 

"Square the yards by lifts and braces before the 
hands go to breakfast." 

It was the first particular order I had given on board 
that ship ; and I stayed on deck to see it executed, too. 
I had felt the need of asserting myself without loss of 
time. That sneering young cub got taken down a peg 
or two on that occasion, and I also seized the op- 
portunity of having a good look at the face of every 
foremast man as they filed past me to go to the after 
braces. At breakfast time, eating nothing myself, 
I presided with such frigid dignity that the two mates 
were only too glad to escape from the cabin as soon as 
decency permitted; and all the time the dual working 


of my mind distracted me almost to the point of in- 
, sanity. I was^eonstantly watching myself, my secret 
ielf , as dependent on my actions as my own personality, 
sleeping in that bed, behind that door which faced me 
as I sat at the head of the table. It was very much 
\ like being mad, only it was worse because one was 
aware of it. 

I had to shake him for a solid minute, but when at 
last he opened his eyes it was in the full possession of 
his senses, with an inquiring look. 

"All's well so far," I whispered. "Now you must 
vanish into the bath-room." 

He did so, as noiseless as a ghost, and then I rang for 
the steward, and facing him boldly, directed him to tidy 
up my stateroom while I Was having my bath — "and be 
quick about it." As my tone admitted of no excuses, 
he said, "Yes, sir," and ran off to fetch his dust-pan and 
brushes. I took a bath and did most of my dressing, 
splashing, and whistling softly for the steward's edifica- 
tion, while the secret sharer of my life stood drawn up 
bolt upright in that little space, his face looking very 
sunken in daylight, his eyelids lowered under the stern, 
dark line of his eyebrows drawn together by a slight 

When I left him there to go back to my room the 
steward was finishing dusting. I sent for the mate 
and engaged him in some insignificant conversation. 
It was, as it were, trifling with the terrific character 
of his whiskers; but my object was to give him an 
opportunity for a good look at my cabin. And then 
I could at last shut, with a clear conscience, the door 
of my stateroom and get my double back into the 
recessed part. There was nothing else for it. He had 
to sit still on a small folding stool, half smothered by 
the heavy coats hanging there. We listened to the 


steward going into the bath-room out of the saloon, 
filling the water-bottles there, scrubbing the bath, 
setting things to rights, whisk, bang, clatter — out again 
into the saloon — turn the key — click. Such was my 
scheme for keeping my second self invisible. Nothing 
better could be contrived under the circumstances. 
And there we sat; I at my writing-desk ready to appear 
busy with some papers, he behind me out of sight of the 
door. It would not have been prudent to talk in day- 
time; and I could not have stood the excitement of that 
queer sense of whispering to myself. Now and then, 
glancing over my shoulder, I saw him far back there, 
sitting rigidly on the low stool, his bare feet close to- 
gether, his arms folded, his head hanging on his breast — 
and perfectly still. Anybody would have taken him for 

I was fascinated by it myself # Every moment I 
had to glance over my shoulder. I was looking^t him 
when a voice outside the door said: 

"Beg pardon, sir." 

"Well!" ... I kept my eyes on him, and so 
when the voice outside the door announced, "There's 
a ship's boat coming our way, sir," I saw him give a 
start — the first movement he had made for hours. But 
he did not raise his bowed head. 

"All right. Get the ladder over." 

I hesitated. Should I whisper something to him? 
But what? His immobility seemed to have been never 
disturbed. What could I tell him he did not know 
already? . . . Finally I went on deck. 


The skipper of the Sephora had a thin red whisker all 
roimd his face, and the sort of complexion that goes 


with hair of that colour; also the particular, rather 
smeary shade of blue in the eyes. He was not exactly 
a showy figure; his shoulders were high, his~slatUT^ 
but middling — one leg slightly more bandy^tban the 
other. He shook hands, looking vaguely around. A 
spiritless tenacity was his main characteristic, I judged. 
I behaved with a politeness which seemed to disconcert 
him. Perhaps he was shy. He mumbled to me as if 
he were ashamed of what he was saying; gave his name 
(it was something like Archbold — ^but at this distance 
of years I hardly am sure), his ship's name, and a few 
other particulars of that sort, in the manner of a 
criminal making a reluctant and doleful confession. He 
had had terrible weather on the passage out — terrible — 
terrible — wife aboard, too. 

By this time we were seated in the cabin and the 
steward brought in a tray with a bottle and glasses. 
"Thanks! No." Never took liquor. Would have 
some water, though. He drank two tumblerfuls. 
Terrible thirsty work. Ever since daylight had been 
exploring the islands round his ship. 

"What was that for — fun?" I asked, with an ap- 
pearance of polite interest. 

"No!" He sighed. "Painful duty." 

As he persisted in his mumbling and I wanted, my 
double to hear every word, I hit upon thfe notion of 
informing him that I regretted to say I was hard of 

"Such a young man, too!" he nodded, keeping his 
smeary blue, unintelligent eyes fastened upon me. 
"What was the cause of it — some disease?" he in- 
quired, without the least sympathy and as if he thought 
that, if so, I'd got no more than I deserved. 

"Yes; disease," I admitted in a cheerful tone which 
seemed to shock him. But my point was gained>^b6- 


cause he had to raise his voice to give me his tale. It 
is not worth while to record that version. It was just 
over two months since all this had happened, and he 
had thought so much about it that he seemed com- 
pletely muddled as to its bearings, but still immensely 

"What would you think of such a thing happening 
on board your own ship? I've had the Sephora for 
these fifteen years. I am a well-known shipmaster.'* 

He was densely distressed — and perhaps I should 
have sympathised with him if I had been able to de- 
tach my mental vision from the unsuspected sharer oil 
my cabin as though he were my second self. There he 
was on the other side of the bulkhead, four or five feet 
from us, no more, as we sat in the saloon. I looked 
politely at Captain Archbold (if that was his name), 
but it was the other I saw, in a grey sleeping-suit, seated 
on a low stool, his bare feet close together, his arms 
folded, and every word said between us falling into the 
ears of his dark head bowed on his chest. 

"I have been at sea now, man and boy, for seven- 
and-thirty years, and I've never heard of such a thing 
happening in an English ship. And that it should be 
my ship. Wife on board, too." 

I was hardly listening to him. 

"Don't you think," I said, "that the heavy sea which, 
you told me, came aboard just then might have killed 
the man.^ I have seen the sheer weight of a sea kill 
a man very neatly, by simply breaking his neck." 

"Good God!" he uttered, impressively, fixing his 
smeary blue eyes on me. "The sea! No man killed 
by the sea ever looked like that." He seemed positively 
scandalised at my suggestion. And as I gazed at him^ 
certainly not prepared for anything original on his part, 
he advanced his head close to mine and thrust his tongue 


out at me so suddenly that I couldn't help starting 

After scoring over my calmness in this graphic way 
he nodded wisely. If I had seen the sight, he assured 
me, I would never forget it as long as I hved. The 
weather was too bad to give the corpse a propter sea 
burial. So next day at dawn they took it up on the 
poop, covering its face with a bit of bunting; he read 
a short prayer, and then, just as it was, in its oilskins 
and long boots, they launched it amongst those moun- 
tainous seas that seemed ready every moment to 
swallow up the ship herself and the terrified lives on 
board of her. 

"That reefed foresail saved you," I threw in. 

"Under God — it did," he exclaimed fervently. "It 
was by a special mercy, I firmly believe, that it stood 
some of those hurricane squalls." 

"It was the setting of that sail which " I began. 

"God's own hand in it," he interrupted me. "Noth- 
ing less could have done it. I don't mind telling you that 
I hardly dared give the order. It seemed impossible 
that we could touch anything without losing it, and then 
our last hoj>e would have been gone." 

The terror of that gale was on him yet. I let him 
go on for a bit, then said, casually — ^as if returning to 
a minor subject: 

"You were very anxious to give up your mate to 
the shore people, I believe?" 

He was. To the law. His obscure tenacity on that 
point had in it something incomprehensible and a little 
awful; something, as it were, mystical, quite apart from 
his anxiety that he should not be suspected of " counte- 
nancing any doings of that sort." Seven-and-thirty 
virtuous years at sea, of which over twenty of im- 
maculate command, and the last fifteen in thtSephora, 


seemed to have laid him under some pitiless obliga- 
tion, x^ 

"And you know," he went on, groping shamefacedly I 
amongst his feelings, "I did not engage that young( 
fellow. His people had some interest with my owners. ) 
I was in a way forced to take him on. He looked very 
smart, very gentlemanly, and all that. But do you 
know — I never liked him, somehow. I am a plain 
man. You see, he wasn't exactly the sort for the 
chief mate of a ship like the Sepkora.*^ 

I had become so connected in thoughts and im-\ 
pressions with the secret sharer of my cabin that I . 
felt as if I, personally, were being given to understand 
that I, too, was not the sort that would have doncj 
for the chief mate of a ship like the Sephora. I had no 
doubt of it in my mind. 

"Not at all the style of man. You understand," 
he insisted, superfluously, looking hard at me. 

I smiled urbanely. He seemed at a loss for a while. 

"I suppose I must report a suicide." 

"Beg pardon?" 

"Sui-cide! That's what I'll have to write to my 
owners directly I get in." 

"Unless you manage to recover him before to-morrow," 
I assented, dispassionately. . . . "I mean, alive." 

He mumbled something which I really did not catch, 
and I turned my ear to him in a puzzled manner. He 
fairly bawled : 

"The land — ^I say, the mainland is at least seven 
miles ofiF my anchorage." 

"About that." 

My lack of excitement, of curiosity, of surprise, of 
any sort of pronounced interest, began to arouse his 
distrust. But except for the felicitous pretence of 
deafness I bad not tried to pretend anything. I biui 


felt utterly incapable of playing the part of ignorance 
properly, and therefoxe was afraid to try. It is also 
certain that he had brought some ready-made suspicions 
with him, and that he viewed my politeness as a strange 
and unnatural phenomenon. And yet how else could I 
have received him.? Not heartily! That was im- 
possible for psychological reasons, which I need not 
state here. My only object was to keep oflF his in- 
quiries. Surlily? Yes, but surliness might have pro- 
voked a point-blank question. From its novelty to 
him and from its nature, punctilious courtesy was the 
manner best calculated to restrain the man. But there 
was the danger of his breaking through my defence 
bluntly. I could not, I think, have met him by a direct 
lie, also for psychological (not moral) reasons. If he 
had only known how afraid I was of his putting my 
feeling of identity with the other to the test! But, 
strangely enough — (I thought of it only afterwards) — I 
believe that he was not a little disconcerted by the re- 
verse side of that weird situation, by something in me 
that reminded him of the man he was seeking — sug- 
gested a mysterious similitude to the young fellow he 
had distrusted and disliked from the first. 

However that might have been, the silence was not 
very prolonged. He took another oblique step. 

"I reckon I had no more than a two-mile pull to your 
ship. Not a bit more." 

"And quite enough, too, in this awful heat,'* I said. 

Another pause full of mistrust followed. Necessity^ 
they say, is mother of invention, but fear, too, is not 
barren of ingenious suggestions. And I was afraid he 
would ask me point-blank for news of my other self. 

"Nice little saloon, isn't it?" I remarked, as if 
noticing for the first time the way his eyes roamed from 
one closed door to the other. "And very well fitted 


out, too. Here, for instance," I continued, reaching 
over the back of my seat negligently and flinging the 
door open, "is my bath-room." 

He made an eager movement, but hardly gave it a 
glance. I got up, shut the door of the bath-room, and 
invited him to have a look round, as if I were very 
proud of my accommodation. He had to rise and be 
shown round, but he went through the business without 
any raptures whatever. 

"And now we'll have a look at my stateroom," I 
declared, in a voice as loud as I dared to make it, cross- 
ing the cabin to the starboard side with purposely heavy 

He followed me in and gazed around. My~intelligent 
double had vanished. I played my part. "~ 

"Very convenient — ^isn't it?" 

"Very nice. Very comf . . ." He didn't finish 
and went out brusquely as if to escai>e from some unv 
righteous wiles of mine. But it was not to be. I had^. 
been too frightened not to feel vengeful; I felt I had 
him on the run, and I meant to keep him on the run.; 
My poUte insistence must have had something menacing 
in it, because he gave in suddenly. And I did not leri 
him oflF a single item; mate's room, pantry, storerooms,! 
the very sail-locker which was also under the poop — ^hel 
had to look into them all. When at last I showed hiny 
out on the quarter-deck he drew a long, spiritless sigh,) 
and mumbled dismally that he must really be going 
back to his ship now. I desired my mate, who had 
joined us, to see to the captain's boat. 

The man of whiskers gave a blast on the whistle which 
he used to wear hanging round his neck, and yelled, 
^'Sephora's away!" My double down there in my 
cabin must have heard, and certainly could not feel 
more relieved than I. Four fellows came running out 


from somewhere forward and went over the side, while 
my own men, api>earing on deck too, lined the rail. I 
escorted my visitor to the gangway ceremoniously, 
and nearly overdid it. He was a tenacious beast. On 
the very ladder he lingered, and in that unique, guiltily 
conscientious manner of sticking to the point: 

"I say . . . you . . . you don't think that '* 

I covered his voice loudly : 

"Certainly not. ... I am delighted. Good- 

I had an idea of what he meant to say, and just saved 
myself by the privilege of defective hearing. He was 
too shaken generally to insist, but my mate, close wit- 
ness of that parting, looked mystified and his face took 
on a thoughtful cast. As I did not want to api>ear as if 
I wished to avoid all communication with my oflScers, 
he had the opportunity to address me. 

"Seems a very nice man. His boat's crew told our 
chaps a very extraordinary story, if what I am told by 
the steward is true. I suppose you had it from the 
captain, sir?" 

"Yes. I had a story from the captain." 

"A very horrible aflFair — isn't it, sir?" < 

"It is." 

"Beats all these tales we hear about murders in 
Yankee ships." 

"I don't think it beats them. I don't think it re- 
sembles them in the least." 

"Bless my soul — ^you don't say so! But of course 
I've no acquaintance whatever with American ships, 
not I, so I couldn't go against your knowledge. It's 
horrible enough for me. . . . But the queerest part 
is that those fellows seemed to have some idea the man 
was hidden aboard here. They had really. Did yau 
ever hear of such a thing?" 


"Preposterous — isn't it?" 

We were walking to and fro athwart the quarter- 
deck. No one of the crew forward could be seen 
(the day was Sunday), and the mate pursued: 

"There was some little dispute about it. Our chap^ 
took offence. *As if we would harbour a thing like 
that/ they said. * Wouldn't you like to look for him 
in our coal-hole?' Quite a tiff. But they made it up 
in the end. I suppose he did drown himself. Don't 
you, sirr 

"I don't suppose anything." 

"You have no doubt in the matter, sir?" 

"None whatever." 

I left him suddenly. I felt I was producing a bad 
impression, but with my double down there it was most 
tr^iig to be on deck. And it was almost as trying to 
be below. Altogether a nerve-trying situation. But 
on the whole I felt less torn in two when I was with 
him. There was no one in the whole ship whom I 
dared take into my confidence. Since the hands had 
got to know his story, it would have been impossible 
to pass him off for any one else, and an accidental 
discovery was to be dreaded now more than ever. . . . 

The steward being engaged in laying the table for 
dinner, we could talk only with our eyes when I first 
went down. Later in the afternoon we had a cautious 
try at whispering. The Sunday quietness of the ship 
was against us; the stillness of air and water around 
her was against us; the elements, the men were against 
us — everything was against us in our secret partner- 
ship; time itself — for this could not go on forever. The 
very trust in Providence was, I suppose, denied to his 
guilt. Shall I confess that this thought cast me down 
very much? And as to the chapter of accidents which 
counts for so much in the book of success, I could only 



hop)e that it was closed. For what favourable accident 
could be expected? 

"Did you h^ar everything?" were my jBrst words as 
soon as we took up our position side by side, leaning 
over my bed-place. 

He had. And the proof of it was his earnest whisper, 
"The man told you he hardly dared to give the order." 

I understood the reference to be to that saving fore- 

"Yes. He was afraid of it being lost in the setting." 

"I assure you he never gave the order. He may 
think he did, but he never gave it. He stood there 
with me on the break of the poop after the maintopsail 
blew away, and whimpered about our last hope — 
positively whimpered about it and nothing else — ^and 
the night coming on ! To hear one's skipper go on like 
that in such weather was enough to drive any fellow 
out of his mind. It worked me up into a sort of desi>er- 
ation. I just took it into my pwn hands and went away 

from him, boiling, and feut what's the use telling 

you? Fcmknow! . . . Do you think that if I had 
not been pretty fierce with them I should have got the 
men to do anything? Not it! The bo's'n perhaps? 
Perhaps! It wasn't a heavy sea — ^it was a sea gone 
mad! I suppose the end of the world will be some- 
thing like that; and a man may have the heart to see it 
coming once and be done with it — ^but to have to 

face it day after day I don't blame anybody. 

I was precious little better than the rest. Only — ^I was 
an oflScer of that old coal-wagon, anyhow " 

"I quite understand," I conveyed that sincere 
assurance into his ear. He was out of breath with 
whispering; I could hear him pant slightly. It was all 
very simple. The same strung-up force which had 
given twenty-four men a chance, at least, for their 


U-ves, had, in a sort of recoil, crushed an unworthy 
mutinous existence. 

But I had no leisure to weigh the merits of the 
matter — footsteps in the saloon, a heavy knock. 
"There's enough wind to get under way with, sir." 
Here was the call of a new claim upon my thoughts and 
even upon my feehngs. 

"Turn the hands up," I cried through the door. 
"rU be on deck directly." 

I was going out to make the acquaintance of my 
ship. Before I left the cabin our eyes met — the eyes 
of the only two strangers on board. I pointed to the 
recessed part where the little camp-stool awaited him 
and laid my finger on my Hps. He made a gesture — 
somewhat vague — a little mysterious, accompanied by 
a faint smile, as if of regret. 

This is not the place to enlarge upon the sensations v 
of a man who feels for the first time a ship move under ^ 
his feet to his own independent word. In my case they 
were not unalloyed. I was not wholly alone with my 
€(mimaiHi; for there was that stranger in my cabin. Or 
rather, I was not completely and wholly with her. 
-Part trf me was absent. That mental feeling of being 
in two places at once affected me physically as if the 
mood of secrecy had penetrated my very soul. Before 
an hour had elapsed since the ship had begun to move, 
having occasion td ask the mate (he stood by my side) 
to take a compass bearing of the Pagoda, I caught 
myself reaching up to his ear in whispers. I say I 
caught myself, but enough had escaped to startle the 
man. I can't describe it otherwise than by saying 
that he shied. A grave, preoccupied manner, as 
though he were in possession of some perplexing 
intelligence, did not leave him henceforth. A little 
later I moved away from the rail to look at the compass 


with such a stealthy gait that the helmsman noticed it 
— and I could not help noticing the unusual roundness 
of his eyes. These are trifling instances, though it's to 
no commander's advantage to be suspected of ludicrous 
eccentricities. But I was also more seriously affected. 
There are to a seaman certain words, gestures, that 
should in given conditions come as naturally, as in- 
stinctively as the winking of a menaced eye. A certain 
order should spring on to his lips without thinking; a 
certain sign should get itself made, so to sj>eak, without 
reflection. But all unconscious alertness had aban- 
doned me. I had to make an effort of will to recall 
myself back (from the cabin) to the conditions of the 
moment. I felt that I was appearing an irresolute 
commander to those i>eople who were watching me 
more or less critically. 

And, besides, there were the scares. On the secona^ 
day out, for instance, coming off the deck in the after- 
noon (I had straw slippers on my bare feet) I stopped 
at the open pantry door and spoke to the steward. He 
was doing something there with his back to me. At 
the sound of my voice he nearly jumped out of his skin, 
as the saying is, and incidentally broke a cup. 

"What on earth's the matter with you?" I asked, 

He was extremely confused. "Beg your pardon, sir. 
I made sure you were in your cabin." 

"You see I wasn't." 

"No, sir. I could have sworn I had heard you 
moving in there not a moment ago. It's most extraor- 
dinary . . . very sorry, sir." 

I passed on with an inward shudder. I was so 
identified with my secret double that I did not even 
mention the fact in those scanty, fearful whispers we 
exchanged. I suppose he had made some slight noise 

TfilJ SEC&ET SHAltEft Ut 

of some kind or other. It would have been miraculous 
if he hadn't at one time or another. And yet, haggard 
as he appeared, he looked always perfectly self- 
controlled, more than calm — almost invulnerable. On 
my suggestion he remained almost entirely in the bath- 
room, which, upon the whole, was the safest place. 
There could be really no shadow of an excuse for any one 
ever wanting to go in there, once the steward had 
done with it. It was a very tiny place. Sometimes 
he reclined on the floor, his legs bent, his head sustained 
on one elbow. At others I would find him on the camp- 
stool, sitting in his grey sleeping-suit and with his 
cropped dark hair hke a patient, unmoved convict. At 
night T would smuggle him into my bed-place, and we 
would wh'si>er together, with the regular footfalls of the 
oflicer of the watch passing and repassing over our 
heads. It was an infinitely miserable time. It was 
lucky that some tins of fine preserves were stowed in 
a locker in my stateroom; hard bread I could always 
get hold of; and so he lived on stewed chicken, pate de 
foie gras, asparagus, cooked oysters, sardines — on all 
sorts of abominable sham delicacies out of tins. My 
early morning coffee he always drank; and it was all I 
dared do for him in that respect. 

Every day there was the horrible manoeuvring to go 
through so that my room and then the bath-room 
should be done in the usual way. I came to hate the 
sight of the steward, to abhor the voice of that harmless 
man. I felt that it was he who would bring on the 
disaster of discovery. It hung like a sword over our 

The fourth day out, I think (we were then working 
down the east side of the Gulf of Siam, tack for tack, 
in light winds and smooth water) — the fourth day, I 
say, of this miserable juggling with the unavoidable, as 


we sat at our evening meal, that man, whose slightest 
movement I dreaded, after putting down the dishes ran 
up on deck busily. This could not be dangerous. 
Presently he came down again; and then it appeared 
that he had remembered a coat of mine which I had 
thrown over a rail to dry after having been wetted in 
a shower which had passed over the ship in the after- 
noon. Sitting stolidly at the head of the table I became 
terrified at the sight of the garment on his arm. Of 
course he made for my door. There was no time to 

"Steward," I thundered. My nerves were so shaken 
that I could not govern my voice and conceal my 
agitation. This was the sort of thing that made my 
terrifically whiskered mate tap his forehead with his 
forefinger. I had detected him using that gesture 
while talking on deck with, a confidential air to the 
carpenter. It was too far to hear a word, but I had no 
doubt that this pantomime could only refer to the 
strange new captain. 

"Yes, sir," the pale-faced steward turned resignedly 
to me. It was this maddening course of being shouted 
at, checked without rhyme or reason, arbitrarily chased 
out of my cabin, suddenly called into it, sent flying 
out of his pantry on incomprehensible errands, that 
accounted for the growing wretchedness of his ex- 

"Where are you going with that coat?" 
To your room, sir." 
Is there another shower coming?" 

"I'm sure I don't know, sir. Shall I go up again and 


see, siri* 

"No! never mind." 

My object was attained, as of course my other self 
in there would have heard everything that passed. 


During this interiude my two oflScers never raised their 
eyes off their respective plates; but the lip of that con- 
founded cub, the second mate, quivered visibly. 

I expected the steward to hook my coat on and come 
out at once. He was very slow about it; but I domi- 
nated my nervousness suflSicientlynot to shout after him. 
Suddenly I became aware (it could be heard plainly 
enough) that the fellow for some reason or other was 
opening the door, of the bath-room. It was the end. 
The place was literally not big enough to swing a cat in. 
My voice died in my throat and I went stony all over. 
I expected to hear a yell of surprise and terror, and 
made a movement, but had not the strength to get on 
my legs. Everything remained still. Had my second 
self taken the poor wretch by the throat? I don't 
know what I could have done next moment if I had not 
seen the steward come out of my room, close the door, 
and then stand quietly by the sideboard. 

"Saved," I thought. "But, no! Lost! Gone! He 
was gone!" 

I laid my knife and fork down and leaned back in my 
chair. My head swam. After a while, when suflSci- 
ently recovered to speak in a steady voice, I instructed 
my mate to put the ship round at eight o'clock himself. 

"I won't come on deck," I went on. "I think I'll 
turn in, and imless the wind shifts I don't want to be 
disturbed before midnight. I feel a bit seedy." 

"You did look middling bad a little while ago," the 
chief mate remarked without showing any great con- 

They both went out, and I stared at the steward 
clearing the table. There was nothing to be read on 
that wretched man's face. But why did he avoid my 
eyes I asked myself. Then I thought I should like to 
hear the sound of his voice. 



"Sir!" Startled as usual. 

"Where did you hang up that coat?" 

In the bath-room, sir." The usual anxious tone. 
It's not quite dry yet, sir." 

For some time longer I sat in the cuddy. Had my 
double vanished as he had come ? But of his coming there 
was an explanation, whereas his disappearance would 
be inexplicable. ... I went slowly into my dark 
room, shut the door, lighted the lamp, and for a time 
dared not turn round. When at last I did I saw him 
standing bolt-upright in the narrow recessed part. It 
would not be true to say I had a shock, but an irresist- 
ible doubt of his bodily existence flitted through my 
mind. Can it be, I asked myself, that he is not visible 
to other eyes than mine.^^ It was like being haunted. 
Motionless, with a grave face, he raised his hands 
slightly at me in a gesture which meant clearly, 
"Heavens! what a narrow escape!" Narrow indeed. 
I think I had come creeping quietly as near insanity as 
any man who has not actually gone over the border. 
That gesture restrained me, so to speak. 

The mate with the terrific whiskers was now putting 
the ship on the other tack. In the moment of profound 
silence which follows upon the hands going to their 
stations I heard on the poop his raised voice: "Hard 
alee!" and the distant shout of the order repeated on 
the maindeck. The sails, in that light breeze, made 
but a faint fluttering noise. It ceased. The ship was 
coming round slowly; I held my breath in the renewed 
stillness of expectation; one wouldn't have thought 
that there was a single living soul on her decks. A 
sudden brisk shout, "Mainsail haul!" broke the spell, 
and in the noisy cries and rush overhead of the men 
running away with the mainart^rftce ^g two, dgwn m my 


cabin, came together in our usual position by the bed- 

He did not wait for my question. "I heard him 
fumbling here and just managed to squat myself down 
in the bath," he whispered to me. "The fellow only 
opened the door and put his arm in to hang the coat up. 
All the same " 

"I never thought of that,'* I whispered back, even 
more appalled than before at the closeness of the shave, 
and marvelling at that something unyielding in his 
character which was carrying him through so finely. 
There was no agitation in his whisper. Whoever was 
being driven distracted, it was not he. He was sane. 
And the proof of his sanity was continued when he took 
up the whispering again. 

"It would never do for me to come to life again." 

It was something that a ghost might have said. But 
what he was alluding to was his old captain's reluctant 
admission of the theory of suicide. It would obviously 
serve his turn — if I had understood at all the view which 
seemed to govern the unalterable purpose of his action. 

"You must maroon me as soon as ever you can get 
amougst these islands off the Cambodge shore," he went 

"Maroon you! We are not living in a boy's ad- 
venture tale," I protested. His scornful whispering 
took me up. 

"We aren't indeed! There's nothing of a boy's tale 
in this. But there's nothing else for it. I want no 
more. You don't suppose I am afraid of what can be 
done to me? Prison or gallows or whatever they may 
please. But you don't see me coming back to explain 
such things to an old fellow in a wig and twelve respect- 
able tradesmen, do you? What can they know 
whether I am guilty or not — or of what I am guilty. 


either? That's my affair. What does the Bible say? 
'Driven off the face of the earth/ Very well. I am 
oflF the face of the earth now. As I came at night so 
I shall go." 

"Impossible!" I murmured. "You can't." 

"Can't? . . . Not naked like a soul on the Day 
of Judgment. I shall freeze on to this sleeping-suit. 
The Last Day is not yet — and . . . you have un- 
derstood thoroughly. Didn't you?" 

I felt suddenly ashamed of myself. I may say truly 
that I understood — and my hesitation in letting that 
man swim away from my ship's side had been a mere 
sham sentiment, a sort of cowardice. 

"It can't be done now till next night," I breathed 
out. "The ship is on the oflf-shore tack and the wind 
may fail us." 

"As long as I know that you imderstand," he 
whispered. "But of course you do. It's a great 
satisfaction to have got somebody to understand. You 
seem to have been there on purpose." And in the 
same whisj>er, as if we two whenever we talked had to 
say things to each other which were not fit for the 
world to hear, he added, "It's very wonderful." 

We remained side by side talking in our secret way 
— ^but sometimes silent or just exchanging a whispered 
Word or two at long intervals. And as usual he stared 
tJirough the port. A breath of wind came now and 
again into our faces. The ship might have been moored 
in dock, so gently and on an even keel she slipped 
through the water, that did not murmur even at our 
passage, shadowy and silent like a phantom sea. 

At midnight I went on deck, and to my mate's great 
surprise put the ship round on the other tack. His 
terrible whiskers flitted round me in silent criticism. 
I certainly should not have done it if it had been only 


a question of getting out of that sleepy gulf as quickly 
as possible. I believe he told the second mate, who 
relieved him, that it was a great want of judgment. 
The other only yawned. That intolerable cub shuffled 
about so sleepily and lolled against the rails in such 
a slack, improi>er fashion that I came down on him 

"Aren't you properly awake yet?" 

"Yes, sir! I am awake." 

"Well, then, be good enough to hold yourself as 
if you were. And keep a look-out. If there's any 
current we'll be closing with some islands before day- 

The east side of the gulf is fringed with islands, some 
solitary, others in groups. On the blue background 
of the high coast they seem to float on silvery patches 
of calm water, arid and grey, or dark green and roimded 
like clumps of evergreen bushes, with the larger ones, 
a mile or two long, showing the outlines of ridges, ribs 
of grey rock under the dank mantle of matted leafage. 
Unknown to trade, to travel, almost to geography, th^ 
manner of life they harbour is an unsolved secret, 
There must be villages — settlements of fishermen at 
least — on the largest of them, and some communication 
with the world is probably kept up by native craft. 
But all that forenoon, as we headed for them, fanned 
along by the faintest of breezes, I saw no sign of man 
or canoe in the field of the telescoi>e I kept on pointing 
at the scattered group. 

At noon I gave no orders for a change of course, 
and the mate's whiskers became much concerned and 
seemed to be offering themselves unduly to my notice. 
At last I said : 

"I am going to stand right in. Quite in — ^as far as 
I can take her." 


The stare of extreme surprise imparted an air of 
ferocity also to his eyes, and he looked truly terrific for a 

"We're not doing well in the middle of the gulf," 
I continued, casually. "I am going to look for the 
land breezes to-night." 

"Bless my soul! Do you mean, sir, in the dark 
amongst the lot of all them islands and reefs and 

"Well — ^if there are any regular land breezes at all 
on this coast one must get close inshore to find them, 
mustn't one?" 

"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed again under his 
breath. All that afternoon he wore a dreamy, con- 
templative appearance which in him was a mark of 
perplexity. After dinner I went into my stateroom 
as if I meant to take some rest. There we two bent 
our dark heads over a half-unrolled chart lying on my 

"There," I said. "It's got to be Koh-ring. I've 
been looking at it ever since sunrise. It has got two 
hills and a low point. It must be inhabited. And 
on the coast opposite there is what looks like the 
mouth of a biggish river — with some town, no doubt, 
not far up. It's the best chance for you that I can 


"Anything. Koh-ring let it be." 

He looked thoughtfully at the chart as if surveying 
chances and distances from a lofty height — and follow- 
ing with his eyes his own figure wandering on the blank 
land of Cochin-China, and then passing off that piece 
of paper clean out of sight into uncharted regions. And 
it was as if the ship had two captains to plan her course 
for her. I had been so worried and restless running 
up and down that I had not had the patience to dress 


that day. I had remained in my sleeping-suit, with 
straw slippers and a soft floppy hat. The closeness of 
the heat in the gulf had been most oppressive, and 
the crew were used to see me wandering in that airy 

"She will clear the south point as she heads now,'* 
I whispered into his ear. " Goodness only knows when, 
though, but certainly after dark. I'll edge her in to 
half a mile, as far as I may be able to judge in the 
dark " 

"Be careful," he murmured, wamingly — and I 
realised suddenly that all my future, the only future 
for which I was fit, would perhaps go irretrievably to 
pieces in any mishap to my first command. 

I could not stop a moment longer in the room. I 
motioned him to get out of sight and made my way 
on the poop. That unplayful cub had the watch. I 
walked up and down for a while thinking things out, 
then beckoned him over. 

"Send a couple of hands to open the two quarter- 
deck ports," I said, mildly. 

He actually had the impudence, or else so forgot 
himself m his wonder at such an incomprehensible 
order, as to repeat : 

"Open the quarter-deck ports! What for, sir.^^" 

"The only reason you need concern yourself about 
is because I tell you to do so. Have them opened wide 
and fastened properly." 

He reddened and went off, but I believe made some 
jeering remark to the carpenter as to the sensible 
practice of ventilating a ship's quarter-deck. I know 
he popped into the mate's cabin to impart the fact to 
him because the whiskers came on deck, as it were by 
chance, and stole glances at me from below — ^for signs 
of lunacy or drunkenness, I suppose. 


A little before supper, feeling more restless than ever, 
I rejoined, for a moment, my second self. And to find 
him sitting so quietly was surprising, like something 
against nature, inhuman. 

I developed my plan in a hurried whisper. 

"I shall stand in as close as I dare and then put her 
round. I will presently find means to smuggle you 
out of here into the sail-locker, which communicates 
with the lobby. But there is an opening, a sort of 
square for hauling the sails out, which gives straight 
on the quarter-deck and which is never closed in fine 
weather, so as to give air to the sails. When the ship's 
way is deadened in stays and all the hands are aft at 
the main-braces you will have a clear road to slip out 
and get overboard through the open quarter-deck port. 
I've had them both fastened up. Use a rope's end to 
lower yourself into the water so as to avoid a splash — 
you know. It could be heard and cause some beastly 

He kept silent for a while, then whispered, "I imder- 

"I won't be there to see you go," I began with an 
eflFort. "The rest . . . I only hope I have under- 
stood, too." 

"You have. From first to last" — and for the first 
time there seemed to be a faltering, something strained 
in his whisper. He caught hold of my arm, but the 
ringing of the supper bell made me start. He didn't, 
though; he only released his grip. 

After supper I didn't come below again till well past 
eight o'clock. The faint, steady breeze was loaded 
with dew; and the wet, darkened sails held all there 
was of propelling power in it. The night, clear and 
starry, sparkled darkly, and the opaque, lightless 
patches shifting slowly against the low stars were the 


drifting islets. On the port bow there was a big one 
more distant and shadowily imposing by the great 
space of sky it eclipsed. 

On opening the door I had a back view of my very 
own self looking at a chart. He had come out of the 
recess and was standing near the table. 

"Quite dark enough," I whispered. 

He stepped back and leaned against my bed with a 
level, quiet glance. I sat on the couch. We had 
nothing to say to each other. Over our heads the 
officer of the watch moved here and there. Then I 
heard him move quickly. I knew what that meant. 
He was making for the companion; and presently his 
voice was outside my door. 

"We are drawing in pretty fast, sir. Land looks 
rather close." 

"Very well," I answered. "I am coming on deck 

I waited till he was gone out of the cuddy, then rose. 
My double moved too. The time had come to ex- 
change our last whispers, for neither of us was ever to ' 
hear each other's natural voice. 

"Look here ! " I opened a drawer and took out three 
sovereigns. "Take this anyhow. I've got six and 
I'd give you the lot, only I must keep a little money to 
buy some fruit and vegetables for the crew from native 
boats as we go through Sunda Straits.'^ 

He shook his head. 

"Take it," I urged him, whispering desperately. 
"No one can tell what " 

He smiled and slapped meaningly the only pocket of 
the sleeping-jacket. It was not safe, certainly. But 
I produced a large old silk handkerchief of mine, and 
tying the three pieces of gold in a corner, pressed it on 
him. He was touched, I suppose, because he took it 


at last and tied it quickly round his waist under the 
jacket, on his bare skin. 

Our eyes met; several seconds elapsed, till, our 
glances still mingled, I extended my hand and turned 
the lamp out. Then I passed through the cuddy, 
leaving the door of my room wide open. . . . 

He was still lingering in the pantry in the greatness 
of his zeal, giving a rub-up to a plated cruet stand the 
last thing before going to bed. Being careful not to 
wake up the mate, whose room was opposite, I si>oke in 
an undertone. 

He looked round anxiously. "Sir!" 

"Can you get me a little hot water from the galley .^^ " 

"I am afraid, sir, the galley fire's been out for some 
time now." 

"Go and see." 

He flew up the stairs. 

"Now," I whispered, loudly, into the saloon — too 
loudly, i>erhaps, but I was afraid I couldn't make a 
sound. He was by my side in an instant — the double 
captain slipped past the stairs — through a tiny dark 
passage ... a sliding door. We were in the 
sail-locker, scrambling on our knees over the sails. A 
sudden thought struck me. I saw myself wandering 
barefooted, bareheaded, the sun beating on my dark 
poll. I snatched off my floppy hat and tried hurriedly 
in the dark to ram it on my other self. He dodged 
and fended off silently. I wonder what he thought had 
come to me before he understood and suddenly de- 
sisted. Our hands met gropingly, lingered united 
in a steady, motionless clasp for a second. . . . No 
word was breathed by either of us when they separated. 

I was standing quietly by the pantry door when the 
steward returned. 


"Sorry, sir. Kettle barely warm. Shall I light the 

"Never mind/' 

I came out on deck slowly. It was now a matter of 
conscience to shave the land as close as possible — ^for 
now he must go overboard whenever the ship was put 
in stays. Must! There could be no going back for 
him. After a moment I walked over to leeward and 
my heart flew into my mouth at the nearness of the 
land on the bow. Under any other circumstances I 
would not have held on a minute longer. The second 
mate had followed me anxiously. 

I looked on till I felt I could command my voice. 

"She will weather," I said then in a quiet tone. 

"Are you going to try that, sir.'^" he stammered out 

I took no notice of him and raised my tone just 
enough to be heard by the helmsman. 

"Keep her good full." 

"Good full, sir." 

The wind fanned my cheek, the sails slept, the world 
was silent. The strain of watching the dark loom of 
the land grow bigger and denser was too much for me. 
I had shut my eyes — because the ship must go closer. 
She must! The stillness was intolerable. Were we 
standing still .^ 

When I oi>ened my eyes the second view started 
my heart with a thump. The black southern hill of 
Koh-ring seemed to hang right over the ship like a 
towering fragment of the everlasting night. On that 
enormous mass of blackness there was not a gleam to be 
seen, not a sound to be heard. It \^'as gliding irresist- 
ibly towards us and yet seemed already within reach of 
the hand. I saw the vague figures of the watch grouped 
in the waist, gazing in awed silence. 


"Are you going on, sir?" inquired an unsteady voice 
at my elbow. 

I ignored it. I had to go on. 

"Keep her full. Don't check her way. That won't 
do now," I said, warningly. 

"I can't see the sails very well," the helmsman 
answered me, in strange, quavering tones. 

Was she close enough .^^ Already she was, I won't 
say in the shadow of the land, but in the very blackness 
of it, already swallowed up as it were, gone too close to 
be recalled, gone from me altogether. 

"Give the mate a call," I said to the young man who 
stood at my elbow as still as death.. "And turn all 
hands up." 

My tone had a borrowed loudness reverberated from 
the height of the land. Several voices cried out to- 
gether: "We are all on deck, sir." 

Then stillness again, with the great shadow gliding 
closer, towering higher, without a light, without a sound. 
Such a hush had fallen on the ship that she might have 
been a bark of the dead floating in slowly under the very 
gate of Erebus. 
/ "My God! Where are we.^" * 

It was the mate moaning at my elbow. He was 
thunderstruck, and as it were deprived of the moral 
support of his whiskers. He clapped his hands and 
/absolutely cried out, "Lost!" 

"Be quiet," I said, sternly. 

He lowered his tone, but I saw the shadowy gesture 
of his despair. "What are we doing here?" 

"Looking for the land wind." 

He made as if to tear his hair, and addressed me 

"She will never get out. You have done it, sir. I 
knew it'd end in something like this. She will never 


weather, and you are too close now to stay. She'll 
drift ashore before she's round. O my God!" 

I caught his arm as he was raising it to batter his 
poor devoted head, and shook it violently. 

"She's ashore already," he wailed, trying to tear 
himself away. 

"Is she? . . . Keep good full there!" 

"Good full, sir," cried the helmsman in a frightened, 
thin, child-Hke voice. 

I hadn't let go the mate's arm and went on shaking 
it. "Ready about, do you hear? You go forward" 
— shake — "and stop there" — shake — ^" and hold your 
noise" — shake — "and see these head-sheets properiy 
overhauled " — shake, shake — shake. 

And all the time I dared not look towards the land 
lest my heart should fail me. I released my grip at last 
and he ran forward as if fleeing for dear life. 

I wondered what my double there in the sail-locker 
thought of this commotion. He was able to hear 
everything — and perhaps he was able to understand 
why, on my conscience, it had to be thus close — ^no 
less . My first order " Hard alee! " re-echoed ominously 
under the towering shadow of Koh-ring as if I had 
shouted in a mountain gorge. And then I watched 
the land intently. In that smooth water and light 
wind it was impossible to feel the ship coming-to. No! 
I could not feel her. And my second self was making 
now ready to slip out and lower himself overboard. 
Perhaps he was gone already . . . ? 

The great black mass brooding over our very mast- 
heads began to pivot away from the ship's side silently. 
And now I forgot the secret stranger ready to depart, 
and remembered only that I was a total stranger to 
the ship. I did not know her. Would she do it? 
How was she to be handled? 


I swung the mainyard and waited helplessly. She 
was perhaps stopped, and her very fate hung in the 
balance, with the black mass of Koh-ring like the gate 
of the everlasting night towering over her taffrail. 
What would she do now? Had she way on her yet? 
I stepped to the side swiftly, and on the shadowy water 
I could see nothing except a faint phosphorescent flash 
revealing the glassy smoothness of the sleeping surface. 
It was impossible to tell — and I had not learned yet the 
feel of my ship. Was she moving? What I needed 
was something easily seen, a piece of paper, which I 
could throw overboard and watch. I had nothing on 
me. To run down for it I didn't dare. There Ifvas no 
time. All at once my strained, yearning stare dis- 
tinguished a white object floating within a yard of the 
ship's side. White on the black water. A phosphores- 
cent flash passed under it. What was that thing? 
. . . I recognised my own floppy hat. It must 
have fallen off his head . . . and he didn't bother. 
Now I had what I wanted — ^the saving mark for my 
eyes. But I hardly thought of my other self, now gone 
from the ship, to be hidden for ever from all friendly 
laces, to be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, 
with no brand of the curse on his sane forehead to 
stay a slaying hand . . . too proud to explain. 

And I watched the hat — ^the expression of my sudden 
pity for his mere flesh. It had been meant to save his 
homeless head from the dangers of the sun. And now 
— behold — ^it was saving the ship, by serving me for a 
mark to help out the ignorance of my strangeness. 
Ha! It was drifting forward, warning me just in time 
that the ship had gathered stemway. 

"Shift the helm," I said in a low voice to the seaman 
standing still like a statue. 

The man's eyes glistened wildly in the binnacle light 


as he jumi>ed round to the other side and spun round 
the wheel. 

I walked to the break of the pK)op. On the over- 
shadowed deck all hands stood by the forebraces wait- 
ing for my order. The stars ahead seemed to be 
gliding from right to left. And all was so still in the 
world that I heard the quiet remark, "She's round," 
passed in a tone of intense relief between two seamen. 

"Let go and haul." 

The foreyards ran round with a great noise, amidst 
cheery cries. And now the frightful whiskers made 
themselves heard giving various orders. Already the 
ship was drawing ahead. And I was alone with her. 
Nothing! no one in the world should stand now between 
us, throwing a shadow on the way of silent knowledge 
and mute affection, the perfect communion of a seaman 
with his first command. 

Walking to the taffrail, I was in time to make out, 
on the very edge of a darkness thrown by a towering 
black mass like the very gateway ofErebus — yes, I was 
iri time to catch an evanescent glimpse jof my white hat 
left behind to mark the spot where the secret sharer of 
my cabin and of my thoughts, as though he were my 
second self, had lowered himself into tne water to take 
his punishment: a free man, a proud ifwimmer striking 
out for a new destiny. 




One day — and that day was many years ago now — I 
received a long, chatty letter from one of my old chums 
and fellow-wanderers in Eastern waters. He was still 
out there, but settled down, and middle-aged; I im- 
agined him grown portly in figure and domestic in 
his habits; in short, overtaken by the fate common to 
all except to those who, being specially beloved by the 
gods, get knocked on the head early. The letter was 
of the reminiscent "do you remember" kind — a wistful 
letter of backward glances. And, amongst other 
things, "surely you remember old Nelson," he wrote. 

Remember old Nelson! Certainly. And to begin 
with, his name was not Nelson. The Englishmen in 
the Archipelago called him Nelson because it was more 
convenient, I suppose, and he never protested. It 
would have been mere pedantry. The true form of 
his name was Nielsen. He had come out East long 
before the advent of telegraph cables, had served 
English firms, had married an English girl, had been one 
of us for years, trading and sailing in all directions 
through the Eastern Archip)elago, across and around, 
transversely, diagonally, perpendicularly, in semi- 
circles, and zigzags, and figures of eights, for years and 

There was no nook or cranny of these tropical waters 
that the enterprise of old Nelson (or Nielsen) had not 
penetrated in an eminently pacific way. His tracks^ 



if plotted out, would have covered the map of the 
Archipelago like a cobweb — all of it, with the sole ex- 
ception of the Philippines. He would never approach 
that part, from a strange dread of Spaniards, or, to be 
exact, of the Spanish authorities. What he imagined 
they could do to him it is impossible to say. Perhaps 
at some time in his life he had read some stories of the 

But he was in general afraid of what he called 
"authorities"; not the English authorities, which he 
trusted and respected, but the other two of that part 
of the world. He was not so horrified at the Dutch 
as he was at the Spaniards, but he was even more mis- 
trustful of them. Very mistrustful indeed. The 
Dutch, in his view, were capable of "playing any ugly 
trick on a man" who had the misfortune to displease 
them. There were their laws and regulations, but 
they had no notion of fair play in applying them. It 
was really pitiable to see the anxious circumspection of 
his dealings with some official or other, and remember 
that this man had been known to stroll up to a village of 
cannibals in New Guinea in a quiet, fearless manner 
(and note that he was always fleshy all his life, and, if I 
may say so, an appetising morsel) on some matter of 
barter that did not amount perhaps to fifty pounds in 
the end. 

Remember old Nelson! Rather! Truly, none of us 
in my generation had known him in his active days. 
He was "retired" in our time. He had bought, or 
else leased, part of a small island from the sultan of 
a little group called the Seven Isles, not far north from 
Banka. It was, I suppose, a legitimate transaction, 
but I have no doubt that had he been an Englishman 
the Dutch would have discovered a reason to fire him 
out without ceremony. In this connection the real 


form of his name stood him in good stead. In the 
character of an unassuming Dane whose conduct was 
most correct, they let him be. With all his money 
engaged in cultivation he was naturally careful not to 
give even the shadow of offence, and it was mostly for 
prudential reasons of that sort that he did not look 
with a favourable eye on Jasper Allen. But of that 
later. Yes ! One remembered well enough old Nelson's 
big, hospitable bungalow erected on a shelving point of 
land, his portly form, costumed generally in a white 
shirt and trousers (he had a confirmed habit of taking off 
his alpaca jacket on the slightest provocation), his 
round blue eyes, his straggly, sandy-white moustache 
sticking out all ways like the quills of the fretful 
porcupine, his propensity to sit down suddenly and 
fan himself with his hat. But there's no use concealing 
the fact that what one remembered really was his 
daughter, who at that time came out to live with him 
— and be a sort of Lady of the Isles. 

Freya Nelson (or Nielsen )was the kind of a girl one 
remembers. The oval of her face was perfect; and 
within that fascinating frame the most happy dis- 
position of line and feature, with an admirable com- 
plexion, gave an impression of health, strength, and 
what I might call unconscious self-confidence — a most 
pleasant and, as it were, whimsical determination. I 
will not compare her eyes to violets, because the real 
shade of their colour was peculiar, not so dark and more 
lustrous. They were of the wide-open kind, and looked 
at one frankly in every mood. I never did see the 
long, dark eyelashes lowered — I dare say Jasper Allen 
did, being a privileged person — but I have no doubt 
that the expression must have been charming in a 
complex way. She could — ^Jasper told me once with a^ 
touchingly imbecile exultation — sit ^ on her hair. I 


dare say, I dare say. It was not for me to behold these 
wonders; I was content to admire the neat and becom- 
ing way she used to do it up so as not to conceal the 
good shape of her head. And this wealth of hair was so 
glossy that when the screens of the west verandah were 
down, making a pleasant twilight there, or in the shade 
of the grove of fruit-trees near the house, it seemed to 
give out a golden light of its own. 

She dressed generally in a white frock, with a skirt of 
walking length, showing her neat, laced, brown boots. 
If there was any colour about her costume it was just a 
bit of blue perhaps. No exertion seemed to distress 
her. I have seen her land from the dinghy after a long 
pull in the sun (she rowed herself about a good deal) 
with no quickened breath and not a single hair out of 
its place. In the morning when she came out on the 
verandah for the first look westward, Sumatra way, 
over the sea, she seemed as fresh and sparkling as a 
dewdrop. But a dewdrop is evanescent, and there was 
nothing evanescent about Freya. I remember her 
round, solid arms with the fine wrists, and her broad, 
capable hands with tapering fingers. 

I don't know whether she was actually born at sea, 
but I do know that up to twelve years of age she sailed 
about with her parents in various ships. After old 
Nelson lost his wife it became a matter of serious con- 
cern for him what to do with the girl. A kind lady 
in Singapore, touched by his dumb grief and deplorable 
perplexity, offered to take charge of Freya. This ar- 
rangement lasted some six years, during which old 
Nelson (or Nielsen) "retired" and established himself 
on his island, and then it was settled (the kind lady 
going away to Europe) that his daughter should join 

As the first and most important preparation for that 


event the old fellow ordered from his Singapore agent a 
Steyn and Ebhart's "upright grand." I was then 
commanding a little steamer in the island trade, and it 
fell to my lot to take it out to him, so I know something 
of Preya's "upright grand." We landed the enormous 
packing-case with difficulty on a flat piece of rock 
amongst some bushes, nearly knocking the bottom out 
of one of my boats in the course of that nautical opera- 
tion. Then, all my crew assisting, engineers and fire- 
men included, by the exercise of much anxious in- 
genuity, and by means of rollers, levers, tackles, and 
inclined planes of soaped planks, toiling in the sun like 
ancient Egyptians at the building of a pyramid, we got 
it as far as the house and up on to the edge of the west 
verandah^-which was the actual drawing-room of the 
bungalow. There, the case being ripp)ed off cautiously, 
the beautiful rosewood monster stood revealed at last. 
In reverent excitement we coaxed it against the wall and 
drew the first free breath of the day. It was certainly 
the heaviest movable object on that islet since the 
creation of the world. The volume of sound it gave 
out in that bungalow (which acted as a sounding- 
board) was really astonishing. It thundered sweetly 
right over the sea. Jasper Allen told me that early of a 
morning on the deck of the Bonito (his wonderfully fast 
and pretty brig) he could hear Freya playing her scales 
quite distinctly. But the fellow always anchored 
foolishly close to the point, as I told him more than 
once. Of course, these seas are almost uniformly 
serene, and the Seven Isles is a particularly calm and 
cloudless spot as a rule. But still, now and again, an 
afternoon thunderstorm over Banka, or even one of 
these vicious thick squalls, from the distant Sumatra 
^oast, would make a sudden sally upon the group, en- 
veloping it for a couple of hours in whirlwi.rd^ ?fi^ 


bluish-black murk of a particularly sinister aspect. 
Then, with the lowered rattan-screens ratthng desper- 
ately in the wind and the bungalow shaking all over, 
Freya would sit down to the piano and play fierce 
Wagner music in the flicker of blinding flashes, with 
thunderbolts falling all round, enough to make your 
hair stand on end; and Jasper would remain stock still 
on the verandah, adoring the back view of her supple, 
swaying figure, the miraculous sheen of her fair head, 
the rapid hands on the keys, the white nape of her 
neck — while the brig, down at the point there, surged 
at her cables within a hundred yards of nasty, shiny, 
black rock-heads. Ugh! 

And this, if you please, for no reason but that, when 
he went on board at night and laid his head on the 
pillow, he should feel that he was as near as he could 
conveniently get to his Freya slumbering in the bunga- 
low. Did you ever! And, mind, this brig was the 
home to be — their home — ^the floating paradise which 
he was gradually fitting out like a yacht to sail his life 
blissfully away in with Freya. Imbecile! But the 
fellow was always taking chances. 

One day, I remember I watched with Freya on the 
verandah the brig approaching the point from the 
northward. I suppose Jasper made the girl out with 
his long glass. What does he do.^ Instead of stand- 
ing on for another mile and a half along the shoals and 
then tacking for the anchorage in a proper and seaman- 
like manner, he spies a gap between two disgusting old 
jagged reefs, puts the helm down suddenly, and shoots 
the brig through, with all her sails shaking and rattling, 
so that we could hear the racket on the verandah. I 
drew my breath through my teeth, I can tell you, and 
Freya swore. Yes! She clenched her capable fists 
and stamped with her pretty brown boot and said 


" Damn ! " Then, looking at me with a little heightened 
colour — not much — she remarked, "I forgot you were 
there," and laughed. To be sure, to be sure. When 
Jasper was in sight she was not likely to remember that 
anybody else in the world was there. In my concern 
at this mad trick I couldn't help appealing to her 
sympathetic common sense. 

"Isn't he a fool?" I said with feeling. 

"Perfect idiot," she agreed warmly, looking at me 
straight with her wide-open, earnest eyes and the 
dimple of a smile on her cheek. 

"And that," I pointed out to her, "just to save 
twenty minutes or so in meeting you." 

We heard the anchor go down, and then she became 
very resolute and threatening. 

"Wait a bit. I'll teach him." 

She went into her own room and shut the door, leav- 
ing me alone on the verandah with my instructions. 
Long before the brig's sails were furled, Jasper came 
up three steps at a time, forgetting to say how d'ye 
do, and looking right and left eagerly. 

"Where's Freya? Wasn't she here just now?" 

When I explained to him that he was to be deprived 
of Miss Freya's presence for a whole hour, "just to 
teach him," he said I had put her up to it, no doubt, 
and that he feared he would have yet to shoot me some 
day. She and I were getting too thick together. Then 
he flung himself into a chair, and tried to talk to me 
about his trip. But the funny thing was that the fellow 
actually sufiFered. I could see it. His voice failed him, 
and he sat therfe dumb, looking at the door with the 
face of a man in pain. Fact. . . . And the next 
still funnier thing was that the girl calmly walked out of 
her room in less than ten minutes. And then I left. I 
mean to say that I went away to seek old Nelson (or 


Nielsen) on the back verandah, which was his own 
special nook in the distribution of that house, with the 
kind purpose of engaging him in conversation lest he 
should start roaming about and intrude unwittingly 
where he was not wanted just then. 

He knew that the brig had arrived, though he did 
not know that Jasper was already with his daughter. 
I suppose he didn't think it was possible in the time. 
A father naturally wouldn't. He suspected that Allen 
was sweet on his girl ; the fowls of the air and the fishes 
of the sea, most of the traders in the Archipelago, and all 
sorts and conditions of men in the town of Singapore 
were aware of it. But he was not capable of appreciat- 
ing how far the girl was gone on the fellow. He had an 
idea that Freya was too sensible ever to be gone on any- 
body — I mean to an unmanageable extent. No; it was 
not that which made him sit on the back verandah and 
worry himself in his unassuming manner during Jasper's 
visits. What he worried about were the Dutch "au- 
thorities." For it is a fact that the Dutch looked 
askance at the doings of Jasper Allen, owner and master 
of the brig Bonito. They considered him much too 
enterprising in his trading. I don't know that he ever 
did anything illegal; but it seems to me that his im- 
mense activity was repulsive to their stolid character 
and slow-going methods. Anyway, in old Nelson's 
opinion, the captain of the Bonito was a smart sailor, 
and a nice young man, but not a desirable acquaintance 
upon the whole. Somewhat compromising, you under- 
stand. On the other hand, he did not like to tell Jasj>er 
in so many words to keep away. Poor old Nelson him- 
self was a nice fellow. I believe he would have shrunk 
from hurting the feelings even of a mop-headed cannibal, 
imless, perhaps, under very strong provocation. I 
mean the feelings, not the bodies. As against spears. 


knives, hatchets, clubs, or arrows, old Nelson had 
proved himself capable of taking his own part. In every 
other respect he had a timorous soul. So he sat on the 
back verandah with a concerned expression, and when- 
ever the voices of his daughter and Jasper Allen reached 
him, he would blow out his cheeks and let the air escape 
with a dismal sound, like a much tried man. 

Naturally I derided his fears which he, more or less, 
confided to me. He had a certain regard for my 
judgment, and a certain respect, not for my moral 
qualities, however, but for the good terms I was sup- 
posed to be on with the Dutch "authorities." I knew 
for a fact that his greatest bugbear, the Governor of 
Banka — a charming, peppery, hearty, retired rear- 
admiral — ^had a distinct liking for him. This consoling 
assurance which I used always to put forward, made old 
Nelson (or Nielson) brighten up for a moment; but in 
the end he would shake his head doubtfully, as much 
as to say that this was all very well, but that there were 
depths in the Dutch oflScial nature which no one but 
himself had ever fathomed. Perfectly ridiculous. 

On this occasion I am speaking of, old Nelson was 
even fretty; for while I was trying to entertain him 
with a very funny and somewhat scandalous adventure 
which happened to a certain acquaintance of ours in 
Saigon, he exclaimed suddenly: 

"What the devil he wants to turn up here for!" 

Clearly he had not heard a word of the anecdote. 
And this annoyed me, because the anecdote was really 
good. I stared at him. 

"Come, come!" I cried. "Don't you know what 
Jasper Allen is turning up here for.^" 

This was the first open allusion I had ever made to 
the true state of affairs between Jasper and his daugh- 
ter. He took it very calmly. 


"Oh, Freya is a sensible girl!" he murmured absently, 
his mind's eye obviously fixed on the "authorities." 
No; Freya was no fool. He was not concerned about 
that. He didn't mind it in the least. The fellow was 
just company for her; he amused the girl; nothing 

When the perspicacious old chap left off mumbling, 
all was still in the house. The other two were amusing 
themselves very quietly, and no doubt very heartily. 
What more absorbing and less noisy amusement could 
they have found than to plan their future.'^ Side by 
side on the verandah they must have been looking at 
the brig, the third party in that fascinating game. 
Without her there would have been no future. She 
was the fortune and the home, and the great free world 
for them. Who was it that likened a ship to a prison? 
May I be ignominiously hanged at a yardarm if that's 
true. The white sails of that craft were the white 
wings — pinions, I believe, would be the more poetical 
style — well, the white pinions, of their soaring love. 
Soaring as regards Jasper. Freya, being a woman, 
kept a better hold of the mundane connections of this 

But Jasper was elevated in the true sense of the word 
ever since the day when, after they had been gazing 
at the brig in one of those decisive silences that alone 
establish a perfect communion between creatures gifted 
with speech, he proposed that she should share the 
ownership of that treasure with him. Indeed, he 
presented the brig to her altogether. But then his 
heart was in the brig since the day he bought her in 
Manila from a certain middle-aged Peruvian, in a sober 
suit of black broadcloth, enigmatic and sententious, 
who, for all I know, might have stolen her on the South 
American coast, whence he said he had come over to 


the Philippines "for family reasons.'* This "for 
family reasons" was distinctly good. No true cahallero 
would care to push on inquiries after such a state- 

Indeed, Jasper was quite the cabaUero. The brig 
herself was then all black and enigmatical, and very 
dirty; a tarnished gem of the sea, or, rather, a neglected 
work of art. For he must have been an artist, the 
obscure builder who had put her body together on lovely 
lines out of the hardest tropical timber fastened with 
the purest copper. Goodness only knows in what part 
of the world she was built. Jasper himself had not 
been able to ascertain much of her history from his 
sententious, saturnine Peruvian — ^if the fellow was a 
Peruvian, and not the devil himself in disguise, as 
Jasper jocularly pretended to believe. My opinion is 
that she was old enough to have been one of the last 
pirates, a slaver perhaps, or else an opium clipper of 
the early days, if not an opium smuggler. 

However that may be, she was as sound as on the 
day she first took the water, sailed like a witch, steered 
Uke a little boat, and, like some fair women of ad- 
venturous life famous in history, seemed to have the 
secret of perpetual youth; so that there was nothing 
unnatural in Jasper Allen treating her like a lover. 
And that treatment restored the lustre of her beauty. 
He clothed her in many coats of the very best white 
paint so skilfully, carefully, artistically put on and kept 
clean by his badgered crew of picked Malays, that no 
costly enamel such as jewellers use for their work could 
have looked better and felt smoother to the touch. A 
narrow gilt moulding defined her elegant sheer as she 
sat on the water, eclipsing easily the professional good 
looks of any pleasure yacht that ever came to the East 
in those days. For myself, I must say I prefer a 


moulding of deep crimson colour on a white hull. It 
gives a stronger relief besides being less expensive; 
and I told Jasper so. But no, nothing less than the 
best gold-leaf would do, because no decoration could 
be gorgeous enough for the future abode of his 

His feelings for the brig and for the girl were as 
indissolubly united in his heart as you may fuse two 
precious metals together in one crucible. And the 
flame was pretty hot, I can assure you. It induced in 
him a fierce inward restlessness both of activity and 
desire. Too fine in face, with a lateral wave in his 
chestnut hair, spare, long-limbed, with an eager glint 
in his steely eyes and quick, brusque movements, he 
made me think sometimes of a flashing sword-blade 
perpetually leaping out of the scabbard. It was only 
when he was near the girl, when he had her there to 
look at, that this peculiarly tense attitude was replaced 
by a grave devout watchfulness of her slightest move- 
ments and utterances. Her cool, resolute, capable, 
good-humoured self-possession seemed to steady his 
heart. Was it the magic of her face, of her voice, of 
her glances which calmed him so.'^ Yet these were 
the very things one must believe which had set his 
imagination ablaze — if love begins in imagination. 
But I am no man to discuss such mysteries, and it 
strikes me that we have neglected poor old Nelson 
inflating his cheeks in a state of worry on the back 

I pointed out to him that, after all, Jasper was not 
a very frequent visitor. He and his brig worked hard 
all over the Archipelago. But all old Nelson said, 
and he said it uneasily, was: 

"I hope Heemskirk won't turn up here while the 
brig's about." 


Getting up a scare about Heemskirk now! Heems- 
kirk! . . . Really, one hadn't the patience 


For, pray, who was Heemskirk? You shall see at 
once how unreasonable this dread of Heemskirk. . . . 
Certainly, his nature was malevolent enough. That 
was obvious, directly you heard him laugh. Nothing 
gives away more a man's secret disposition than the 
unguarded ring of his laugh. But, bless my soul! if 
we were to start at every evil guffaw like a hare at 
every sound, we shouldn't be fit for anything but the 
solitude of a desert, or the seclusion of a hermitage. 
And even there we should have to put up with the 
unavoidable company of the devil. 

However, the devil is a considerable personage, who 
has known better days and has moved high up in the 
hierarchy of Celestial Host; but in the hierarchy of 
> mere earthly Dutchmen, Heemskirk, whose early days 
could not have been very splendid, was merely a naval 
officer forty years of age, of no particular connections or 
ability to boast of. He was commanding the Neptun, sl 
little gunboat employed on dreary patrol duty up and 
down the Archipelago, to look after the traders. Not 
a very exalted position truly. I tell you, just a common 
middle-aged lieutenant of some twenty-five years' 
service and sure to be retired before long — ^that's 

He never bothered his head very much as to what 
was going on in the Seven Isles group till he learned 
from some talk in Mintok or Palembang, I suppose, 
that there was a pretty girl living there. Curiosity, I 
presume, caused him to go poking around that way 
and then, after he had once seen Freya, he made a 


practice of calling at the group whenever he found him- 
self within half a day's steaming from it. 

I don't mean to say that Heemskirk was a typical 
Dutch naval oflScer. I have seen enough of them not 
to fall into that absurd mistake. He had a big, clean- 
shaven face; great flat, brown cheeks, with a thin, 
hooked nose and a small, pursy mouth squeezed in 
between. There were a few silver threads in his black 
hair, and his unpleasant eyes were nearly black, too. 
He had a surly way of casting side glances without 
moving his head, which was set low on a short, round 
neck. A thick, round trunk in a dark undress jacket 
with gold shoulder-straps, was sustained by a straddly 
pair of thick, round legs, in white drill trousers. His 
round skull under a white cap looked as if it were im- 
mensely thick too, but there were brains enough in it 
to discover and take advantage maliciously of poor old 
Nelson's nervousness before everything that was in- 
vested with the merest shred of authority. 

Heemskirk would land on the point and perambulate 
silently every part of the plantation as if the whole place 
belonged to him, before he went to the house. On the 
verandah he would take the best chair, and would stay 
for tiflSn or dinner, just simply stay on, without taking 
the trouble to invite himself by so much as a word. 

He ought to have been kicked, if only for his manner 
to Miss Freya. Had he been a naked savage, armed 
with spears and poisoned arrows, old Nelson (or Niel- 
sen) would have gone for him with his bare fists. But 
these gold shoulder-straps — Dutch shoulder-straps at 
that — were enough to terrify the old fellow; so he let the 
beggar treat him with heavy contempt, devour his 
daughter with his eyes, and drink the best part of his 
little stock of wine. 

I saw something of this, and on one occasion I tried 


to pass a remark on the subject. It was pitiable to 
see the trouble in old Nelson's round eyes. At first 
he cried out that the lieutenant was a good friend of 
his; a very good fellow. I went on staring at him 
pretty hard, so that at last he faltered, and had to own 
that, of course, Heemskirk was not a very genial person 
outwardly, but all the same at bottom. . . . 

"I haven't yet met a genial Dutchman out here," 
I interrupted. "Geniality, after all, is not of much 
consequence, but don't you see " 

Nelson looked suddenly so frightened at what I was 
going to say that I hadn't the heart to go on. Of 
course, I was going to tell him that the fellow was 
after his girl. That just describes it exactly. What 
Heemskirk might have expected or what he thought 
he could do, I don't know. For all I can tell, he might 
have imagined himself irresistible, or have taken Freya 
for what she was not, on account of her lively, assured, 
unconstrained manner. But there it is. He was after 
that girl. Nelson could see it well enough. Only he 
preferred to ignore it. He did not want to be told 
of it. 

"All I want is to live in peace and quietness with 
the Dutch authorities," he mumbled shamefacedly. 

He was incurable. I was sorry for him, and I really 
think Miss Freya was sorry for her father, too. She 
restrained herself for his sake, and like everything she 
did she did it simply, unaffectedly, and even good 
humouredly. No small effort that, because in Heems- 
kirk's attentions there was an insolent touch of scorn, 
hard to put up with. Dutchmen of that sort are over- 
bearing to their inferiors, and that oflScer of the king 
looked upon old Nelson and Freya as quite beneath 
him in every way. 

I can*t sav I felt sorry for Freya. She was not the 


sort of girl to take anything tragically. One could feel 
for her and sympathise with her difficulty, but she 
seemed equal to any situation. It was rather admira- 
tion she extorted by her competent serenity. It was 
only when Jasper and Heemskirk were together at the 
bungalow, as it happened now and then, that she felt 
the strain, and even then it was not for everybody to 
see. My eyes alone could detect a faint shadow on 
the radiance of her personality. Once I could not 
help saying to her appreciatively : 

"Upon my word you are wonderful." 

She let it pass with a faint smile. 

"The great thing is to prevent Jasper becoming un- 
reasonable," she said; and I could see real concern 
lurking in the quiet depths of her frank eyes gazing 
straight at me. "You will help to keep him quiet, 
won't you.^" 

"Of course, we must keep him quiet," I declared, 
understanding very well the nature of her anxiety. 
He's such a lunatic, too, when he's roused." 

He is!" she assented, in a soft tone; for it was our 
joke to speak of Jasper abusively. "But I have tamed 
him a bit. He's quite a good boy now." 

"He would squash Heemskirk like a blackbeetle all 
the same," I remarked. 

"Rather!" she murmured. "And that wouldn't 
do," she added quickly. "Imagine the state poor 
papa would get into. Besides, I mean to be mistress 
of the dear brig and sail about these seas, not go off 
wandering ten thousand miles away from here." 

"The sooner you are on board to look after the man 
and the brig the better," I said seriously. "They 
need you to steady them both a bit. I don't think 
Jasper will ever get sobered down till he has carried 
you oflp from this island. You don't se^ him when be 


IS away from you, as I do. He's in a state of perpetual 
elation which almost frightens me." 

At this she smiled again, and then looked serious. 
For it could not be unpleasant to her to be told of 
her power, and she had some sense of her responsibility. 
She slipped away from me suddenly, because Heems- 
kirk, with old Nelson in attendance at his elbow, was 
coming up the steps of the verandah. Directly his 
head came above the level of the floor his ill-natured 
black eyes shot glances here and there. 

"Where's your girl, Nelson?" he asked, in a tone as 
if every soul in the world belonged to him. And then 
to me: "The goddess has flown, eh?'* 

Nelson's Cove — as we used to call it — was crowded 
with shipping that day. There Was first my steamer, 
then the Neptun gunboat further out, and the Bonito, 
brig, anchored as usual so close inshore that it looked as 
if, with a little skill and judgment, one could shy a hat 
from the verandah on to her scrupulously holystoned 
quarter-deck. Her brasses flashed like gold, her white 
body-paint had a sheen like a satin robe. The rake 
of her varnished spars and the big yards, squared to a 
hair, gave her a sort of martial elegance. She was a 
beauty. No wonder that in possession of a craft like 
that and the promise of a girl like Freya, Jasper hved in 
a state of perpetual elation fit, perhaps, for the seventh 
heaven, but not exactly safe in a world like ours. 

I remarked politely to Heemskirk that, with three 
guests in the house. Miss Freya had no doubt domestic 
matters to attend to. I knew, of course, that she had 
gone to meet Jasper at a certain cleared spot on the 
banks of the only stream on Nelson's little island. 
The commander of the Neptun gave me a dubious black 
look, and began to make himself at home, flinging his 
thick, cylindrical carcass into a rocking-chair, and un- 


buttoning his coat. Old Nelson sat down opposite 
him in a most unassuming manner, staring anxiously 
with his round eyes and fanning himself with his hat. 
I tried to make conversation to while the time away; 
not an easy task with a morose, enamoured Dutchman 
constantly looking from one door to another and an- 
swering one's advances either with a jeer or a grimt. 

However, the evening passed off all right. Luckily 
there is a degree of bliss too intense for elation. Jasper 
was quiet and concentrated silently in watching Freya. 
As we went on board our respective ships I offered to 
give his brig a tow out next morning. I did it on pur- 
pose to get him away at the earliest possible moment. 
So in the first cold light of the dawn we passed by the 
gunboat lying black and still without a sound in her at 
the mouth of the glassy cove. But with tropical swift- 
ness the sun had climbed twice its diameter above the 
horizon before we had rounded the reef and got abreast 
of the point. On the biggest boulder there stood Freya, 
all in white and, in her helmet, like a feminine and mar- 
tial statue with a rosy face, as I could see very well with 
my glasses. She fluttered an expressive handkerchief, 
and Jasper, running up the main rigging of the white 
and warlike brig, Waved his hat in response. Shortly 
afterwards we parted, I to the northward, and Jasper 
heading east with a light wind on the quarter, for 
Banjermassin and two other ports, I believe it was, that 

This peaceful occasion was the last on which I saw 
all these people assembled together; the charmingly 
fresh and resolute Freya, the innocently round-eyed 
old Nelson, Jasper, keen, long limbed, lean faced, 
admirably self-contained in his manner, because in- 
conceivably happy under the eyes of his Freya; all 
three tall, fair, and blue-eyed in varied shades, and 


amongst them the swarthy, arrogant, black-haired 
Dutchman, shorter nearly by a head, and so much 
thicker than any of them that he seemed to be a creature 
capable of inflating itself, a grotesque specimen of man- 
kind from some other planet. 

The contrast struck me all at once as we stood in the 
lighted verandah, after rising from the dinner-table. 
I was fascinated by it for the rest of the evening, and 
I remember the impression of something funny and 
ill-omened at the same time in it to this day. 


A FEW weeks later, coming early one morning into 
Singapore, from a journey to the southward, I saw the 
brig lying at anchor in all her usual symmetry and 
splendour of aspect as though she had been taken out 
of a glass case and put delicately into the water that 
very moment. 

She was well out in the roadstead, but I steamed in 
and took up my habitual berth close in front of the 
town. Before we had finished breakfast a quarter- 
master came to tell me that Captain Allen's boat was 
coming our way. 

HiiS smart gig dashed alongside, and in two bounds 
he was up our accommodation-ladder and shaking me 
by the hand with his nervous grip, his eyes snapping 
inquisitively, for he supposed I had called at the Seven 
Isles group on my way. I reached into my pocket for 
a nicely folded little note, which he grabbed out of my 
hand without ceremony and carried off on the bridge 
to read by himself. After a decent interval I followed 
him up there, and found him pacing to and fro; for 
the nature of his emotions made him restless even in 
his most thoughtful moments. 


He siiook his head at me triumphantly. 

"Well, my dear boy/' he said, "I shall be counting 
the days now." 

I understood what he meant. I knew that those 
young people had settled already on a runaway match 
without official preliminaries. This was really a logical 
decision. Old Nelson (or Nielsen) would never have 
agreed to give up Freya peaceably to this compromising 
Jasper. Heavens! What would the Dutch authori- 
ties say to such a match! It sounds too ridiculous for 
words. But there's nothing in the world more selfishly 
hard than a timorous man in a fright about his "little 
estate," as old Nelson used to call it in apologetic 
accents. A heart permeated by a particular sort of * 
funk is proof against sense, feeling, and ridicule. It's 
a flint. 

Jasper would have made his request all the same 
and then taken his own way; but it was Freya who 
decided that nothing should be said, on the ground 
that, "Papa would only worry himself to distraction." . 
He was capable of making himself ill, and then she 
wouldn't have the heart to leave him. Here you have 
the sanity of feminine outlook and the frankness of 
feminine reasoning. And for the rest. Miss Freya 
could read "poor dear papa" in the way a woman 
reads a man — like an open book. His daughter once 
gone, old Nelson would not worry himself. He would 
raise a great outcry, and make no end of lamentable 
fuss, but that's not the same thing. The real agonies 
of indecision, the anguish of conflicting feelings would 
be spared to him. And as he was too unassuming to 
rage, he would, after a period of lamentation, devote 
himself to his "little estate," and to keeping on good 
t'^rms with the authorities. 

Time would do the rest. And Freva thought she 


could afford to wait, while ruling over her own home 
in the beautiful brig and over the man who loved her. 
This was the life for her who had learned to walk on a 
ship's deck. She was a ship-child, a sea-girl if ever 
there was one. And of course she loved Jasper and 
trusted him; but there was a shade of anxiety in her 
pride. It is very fine and romantic to possess for your 
very own a finely tempered and trusty sword-blade, 
but whether it is the best weapon to counter with the 
common cudgel-play of Fate — that's another question. 

She knew that she had the more substance of the 
two — ^you needn't try any cheap jokes, I am not talking 
of their weightsl She was just a little anxious while he 
was away, and she had me who, being a tried confidant, 
took the Kberty to whisper frequently "The sooner the 
better." But there was a j>eculiar vein of obstinacy in 
Miss Freya, and her reason for delay was character- 
istic. "Not before my twenty-first birthday; so that 
there shall be no mistake in people's minds as to me 
being old enough to know what I am doing." 

Jasper's feelings were in such subjection that he had 
never even remonstrated against the decree. She was 
just splendid, whatever she did or said, and there was 
an end of it for him. I believe that he was subtle 
enough to be even flattered at bottom — at times. And 
then to console him he had the brig which seemed 
pervaded by the spirit of Freya, since whatever he did 
on board was always done under the supreme sanction 
of his love. 

"Yes. I'll soon begin to count the days," he re- 
peated. "Eleven months more. I'll have to crowd 
three trips into that." 

"Mind you don't come to grief trying to do too 
much," I admonished him. But he dismissed my 
p^ution with a laugh and 9m dated gesture. Pooht 


Nothing, nothing could happen to the brig, he cried, as 
if the flame of his heart could light up the dark nights of 
uncharted seas, and the' image of Freya serve for an 
unerring beacon amongst hidden shoals; as if the winds 
had to wait on his future, the stars fight for it in their 
courses; as if the magic of his passion had the power to 
float a ship on a drop of dew or sail her through the 
eye of a needle — simply because it was her magnificent 
lot to be the servant of a love so full of grace as to 
make all the ways of the earth safe, resplendent, and 

"I suppose," I said, after he had finished laughing at 
my innocent enough remark, " I suppose you will be oflF 

That was what he meant to do. He had not gone at 
daylight only because he expected me to come in. 

"And only fancy what has happened yesterday," 
he went on. "My mate left me suddenly. Had to. 
And as there's nobody to be found at a short notice I 
am going to take Schultz with me. The notorious 
Schultz! Why don't you jump out of your skin? I 
tell you I went and unearthed Schultz late last evening, 
after no end of trouble. *I am your man. Captain,' he 
says, in that wonderful voice of his, *but I am sorry to 
confess I have practically no clothes to my back. I 
have had to sell all my wardrobe to get a little food from 
day to day.' What a voice that man has got. Talk 
about moving stones! But people seem to get used 
to it. I had never seen him before, and, upon my 
word, I felt suddenly tears rising to my eyes. Luckily 
it was dusk. He was sitting very quiet under a tree 
in a native compound as thin as a lath, and when I 
peered down at him all he had on was an old cotton 
singlet and a pair of ragged pyjamas. I bought him 
six white suits and two pairs of canvas shoes« Can't 


clear the ship without a mate. Must have somebody. 
I am going on shore presently to sign him on, and I 
shall take him with me as I go back on board to get 
under way. Now, I am a lunatic — am I not? Mad, 
of course. Come on! Lay it on thick. Let yourself 
go. I like to see you get excited." 

He so evidently expected me to scold that I took 
especial pleasure in exaggerating the calmness of my 

" The worst that can be brought up against Schultz," 
I began, folding my arms and speaking dispassionately, 
"is an awkward habit of steahng the stores of every 
ship he has ever been in. He will do it. That's really 
all that's wrong. I don't credit absolutely that story 
Captain Robinson tells of SchultzT conspiring in Chanta- 
bim with some ruffians in a Chinese junk to steal the 
anchor oflF the starboard bow of the Bohemian Girl 
schooner. Robinson's story is too ingenious altogether. 
That other tale of the engineers of the Nan-Shan 
finding Schultz at midnight in the engine-room busy 
hammering at the brass bearings to carry them oflF for 
sale on shore seems to me more authentic. Apart 
from this little weakness, let me tell you that Schultz is 
a smarter sailor than many who never took a drop of 
drink in their lives, and j>erhaps no worse morally than 
some men you and I know who have never stolen the 
value of a penny. He may not be a desirable person to 
have on board one's ship, but since you have no choice 
he may be made to do, I believe. The important thing 
is to understand his psychology. Don't give him any 
money till you have done with him. Not a cent, if he 
begs you ever so. For as sure as Fate the moment you 
give him any money he will begin to steal. Just re- 
member that." 

I enjoyed Jasper's incredulous surprise. 


"The devil he will!" he cried. "What on earth for? 
Aren't you trying to pull my leg, old boy?" 

"No. I'm not. You must understand Schultz's 
psychology. He's neither a loafer nor a cadger. He's 
not likely to wander about looking for somebody to 
stand him drinks. But suppose he goes on shore with 
five dollars, or fifty for that matter, in his pocket? 
After the third or fourth glass he becomes fuddled and 
charitable. He either drops his money all over the 
place, or else distributes the lot around; gives it to any 
one who will take it. Then it occurs to him that the 
aight is young yet, and that he may require a good 
many more drinks for himself and his friends before 
morning. So he starts off cheerfully for his ship. His 
legs never get affected nor his head either in the usual 
way. He gets aboard and simply grabs the first thing 
that seems to him suitable — the cabin lamp, a coil of 
rope, a bag of biscuits, a drum of oil — and converts it 
into money without thinking twice about it. This is 
the process and no other. You have only to look out 
that he doesn't get a start. That's all." 

"Confound his psychology," muttered Jasper. "But 
a man with a voice like his is fit to talk to the angels. 
Is he incurable do you think?" 

I said that I thought so. Nobody had prosecuted 
him yet, but no one would employ him any longer. 
His end would be, I feared, to starve in some hole or 

"Ah, well," reflected Jasper. "The Bonito isn't 
trading to any ports of civilisation. That'll make it 
easier for him to keep straight." 

That was true. The brig's business was on un- 
civilised coasts, with obscure rajahs dwelling in nearly 
unknown bays; with native settlements up mysterious 
rivers opening their sombre, forest-lined estuaries 


among a welter of pale green reefs and dazzling sand- 
banks, in lonely straits of calm blue water all aglitter 
with sunshine. Alone, far from the beaten tracks, she 
glided, all white, round dark, frowning headlands, stole 
out, silent like a ghost, from behind points of land 
stretching out all black in the moonlight; or lay hove-to, 
like a sleeping sea-bird, under the shadow of some 
nameless mountain waiting for a signal. She would 
be glimpsed suddenly on misty, squally days dashing 
disdainfully aside the short aggressive waves of the 
Java Sea; or be seen far, far away, a tiny dazzling 
white speck flying across the brooding purple masses 
of thunderclouds piled up on the horizon. Sometimes, 
on the rare mail tracks, where civilisation brushes 
against wild mystery, when the naive passengers crowd- 
ing along the rail exclaimed, pointing at her with 
interest: "Oh, here's a yacht!" the Dutch captain, 
with a hostile glance, would grunt contemptuously: 
"Yacht! No! That's only English Jasper. A ped- 
lar " 

"A good seaman you say," ejaculated Jasper, still 
in the matter of the hopeless Schultz with the wonder- 
fully touching voice. 

"First rate. Ask any one. Quite worth having — 
only impossible," I declared. 

"He shall have his chance to reform in the brig," said 
Jasper, with a laugh. "There will be no temptations 
either to drink or steal where I am going to this time." 

I didn't press him for anything more definite on that 
point. In fact, intimate as we were, I had a pretty 
clear notion of the general run of his business. 

But as we are going ashore in his gig he asked sud- 
denly: "By the way, do you know where Heemskirk 

I eyed him covertly, and was reassured. He had 


asked the question, not as a lover, but as a trader. I 
told him that I had heard in Palemban^ that the 
Neptun was on duty down about Flores and Sumbawa. 
Quite out of his way. He expressed his satisfaction. 

"You know," he went on, "that fellow, when he 
gets on the Borneo coast, amuses himself by knocking 
down my beacons. I have had to put up a few to help 
me in and out of the rivers. Early this year a Celebes 
trader becalmed in a pi^au was watching him at it. He 
steamed the gunboat full tilt at two of them, one after 
another, smashing them to pieces, and then lowered a 
boat on purpose to pull out a third, which I had a lot of 
trouble six months ago to stick up in the middle of a 
mudflat for a tide mark. Did you ever hear of any- 
thing more provoking — eh?" 

"I wouldn't quarrel with the beggar," I observed 
casually, yet disliking that piece of news strongly. "It 
isn't worth while." 

"I quarrel?" cried Jasper. "I don't want to quarrel. 
I don't want to hurt a single hair of his ugly head. My 
dear fellow, when I think of Freya's twenty-first birth- 
day, all the world's my friend, Heemskirk included. 
It's a nasty, spiteful amusement, all the same." 

We parted rather hurriedly on the quay, each of us 
having his own pressing business to attend to. I would 
have been very much cut up had I known that this 
hurried grasp of the hand with "So long, old boy. 
Good luck to you!" was the last of our partings. 

On his return to the Straits I was away, and he 
was gone again before I got back. He was trying to 
achieve three trips before Freya's twenty-first birthday. 
At Nelson's Cove I missed him again by only a couple 
of days. Freya and I talked of "that lunatic" and 
"perfect idiot" with great delight and infinite apprecia- 
tion. She was very radiant, with a more pronounced 


gaiety, notwithstanding that she had just parted from 
Jasper. But this was to be their last separation. 

"Do get aboard as soon as you can, Miss Freya," I 

She looked me straight in the face, her colour a little 
heightened and with a sort of solemn ardour — ^if there 
was a little catch in her voice. 

"The very next day." 

Ah, yes! The very next day after her twenty-first 
birthday. I was pleased at this hint of deep feeling. 
It was as if she had grown impatient at last of the self- 
imposed delay. I supposed that Jasper's recent visit 
had told heavily. 

"That's right," I said approvingly. "I shall be 
much easier in my mind when I know you have taken 
charge of that lunatic. Don't you lose a minute. He, 
of course, will be on time — ^unless heavens fall." 

"Yes. Unless " she repeated in a thoughtful 

whisper, raising her eyes to the evening sky without 
a speck of cloud anywhere. Silent for a time, we let our 
eyes wander over the waters below, looking mysteri- 
ously still in the twilight, as if trustfully composed for a 
long, long dream in the warm, tropical night. And the 
peace all round us seemed without limits and without 

And then we began to talk Jasper over in our usual 
strain. We agreed that he was too reckless in many 
ways. Luckily, the brig was equal to the situation. 
Nothing apparently was too much for her. A perfect 
darling of a ship, said Miss Freya, She and her father 
had spent an afternoon on board. Jasper had given 
them some tea. Papa was grumpy. ... I had a 
vision of old Nelson under the brig's snowy awnings, 
nursing his unassuming vexation, and fanning himself 
with his hat. A comedy father, . . . As a new 


instance of Jasper's lunacy, I was told that he was dis- 
tressed at his inability to have solid silver handles 
fitted to all the cabin doors. "As if I would have let 
him!" commented Miss Freya, with amused indigna- 
tion. Incidentally, I learned also that Schultz, the 
nautical kleptomaniac with the pathetic voice, was still 
hanging on to his job, with Miss Freya's approval. 
Jasper had confided to the lady of his heart his purpose 
of straightening out the fellow's psychology. Yes, in- 
deed. All the world was his friend because it breathed 
the same air with Freya. 

Somehow or other, I brought Heemskirk's name into 
conversation, and, to my great surprise, startled Miss 
Freya. Her eyes expressed something like distress, 
while she bit her lip as if to contain an explosion of 
laughter. Oh! Yes. Heemskirk was at the bunga- 
low at the same time with Jasper, but he arrived the 
day after. He left the same day as the brig, but a few 
hours later. 

"What a nuisance he must have been to you two," 
I said feelingly. 

Her eyes flashed at me a sort of frightened merri- 
ment, and suddenly she exploded into a clear burst of 
laughter. "Ha, ha, ha!" 

I iechoed it heartily, but not with the same charming 
tone: "Ha, ha, ha! . . . Isn't he grotesque? 
Ha, ha, ha!" And the ludicrousness of old Nelson's 
inanely fierce round eyes in association with his con- 
ciliatory manner to the lieutenant presenting itself to 
my mind brought on another fit. 

"He looks," I spluttered, "he looks — ^Ha, ha, ha! 
— amongst you three . . . like an unhappy black- 
beetle. Ha, ha, ha!" 

She gave out another ringing peal, ran off into her 
own room, and slammed the door behind her, leav- 


ing me profoundly astounded. I stopped laughing at 

"What's the joke?" asked old Nelson's voice, half 
way down the steps. 

He came up, sat down, and blew out his cheeks, 
looking inexpressibly fatuous. But I didn't want to 
laugh any more. "And what on earth," I asked my- 
self, "have we been laughing at in this uncontrollable 
fashion?'' I felt suddenly depressed. 

Oh, yes. Freya had started it. The girl's over- 
wrought, I thought. And really one couldn't wonder at 

I had no answer to old Nelson's question, but he was 
too aggrieved at Jasper's visit to think of anything else. 
He as good as asked me whether I wouldn't undertake 
to hint to Jasper that he was not wanted at the Seven 
Isles group. I declared that it was not necessary. 
From certain circumstances which had come to my 
knowledge lately, I had reason to think that he would 
not be much troubled by Jasper Allen in the future. 

He emitted an earnest "Thank God!" which nearly 
set me laughing again, but he did not brighten up 
proportionately. It seemed Heemskirk had taken 
special pains to make himself disagreeable. The 
lieutenant had frightened old Nelson very much by 
expressing a sinister wonder at the Government per- 
mitting a white man to settle down in that part at all, 
"It is against our declared policy," he had remarked. 
He had also charged him with being in reality no better 
than an Englishman. He had even tried to pick a 
quarrel with him for not learning to sj>eak Dutch. 

"I told him I was too old to learn now," sighed out 
old Nelson (or Nielsen) dismally. "He said I ought to 
have learned Dutch long before. I had been making 
my living in Dutch dependencies. It was disgraceful of 


me not to speak Dutch, he said. He was as savage 
with me as if I had been a Chinaman." 

It was plain he had been viciously badgered. He 
did not mention how many bottles of his best claret he 
had oflFered up on the altar of conciKation. It must 
have been a generous libation. But old Nelson (or 
Nielsen) was really hospitable. He didn't mind that; 
and I only regretted that this virtue should be lavished 
on the lieutenant-commander of the Neptun. I longed 
to tell him that in all probability he would be relieved 
from Heemskirk's visitations also. I did not do so only 
from the fear (absurd, I admit) of arousing some sort of 
suspicion in his mind. As if with this guileless comedy 
father such a thing were possible! 

Strangely enough, the last words on the subject of 
Heemskirk were spoken by Freya, and in that very 
sense. The lieutenant was turning up persistently in 
old Nelson's conversation at dinner. At last I muttered 
a half audible, "Damn the lieutenant." I could see 
that the girl was getting exasperated, too. 

"And he wasn't well at all — was he, Freya?" old 
Nelson went on moaning. " Perhaps it was that which 
made him so snappish, hey, Freya? He looked very 
bad when he left us so suddenly. His liver must be in 
a bad state, too." 

"Oh, he will end by getting over it," said Freya 
impatiently. "And do leave oflF worrying about him, 
papa. Very likely you won't see much of him for a 
long time to come." 

The look she gave me in exchange for my discreet 
smile had no hidden mirth in it. Her eyes seemed 
hollowed, her face gone wan in a couple of hours. We 
had been laughing too much. Overwrought! Over- 
wrought by the approach of the decisive moment. 
After aU, sincere, courageous, and self-reliant as she 


was, she must have felt both the passion and the com- 
punction of her resolve. The very strength of love 
which had carried her up to that point must have put 
her under a great moral strain, in which there might 
have been a Httle simple remorse, too. For she was 
honest — and there, across the table, sat poor old 
Nelson (or Nielsen) staring at her, round-eyed and so 
pathetically comic in his fierce asj>ect as to touch the 
most lightsome heart. 

He retired early to his room to soothe himself for a 
night's rest by perusing his account-books. We two 
remained on the verandah for another hour or so, but 
we exchanged only languid phrases on things without 
importance, as though we had been emotionally jaded 
by our long day's talk on the only momentous subject. 
And yet there was something she might have told a 
friend. But she didn't. We parted silently. She 
distrusted my masculine lack of common sense, per- 
haps. . . . O Freya! 

Going down the precipitous path to the landing- 
stage, I was confronted in the shadows of boulders and 
bushes by a draped feminine figure whose appearance 
startled me at first. It glided into my way suddenly 
from behind a piece of rock. But in a moment 
it occurred to me that it could be no one else 
but Freya's maid, a half-caste Malacca Portuguese. 
One caught fleeting ghmpses of her olive face and 
dazzling white teeth about the house. I had also 
observed her at times from a distance, as she sat within 
call under the shade of some fruit-trees, brushing and 
plaiting her long raven locks. It seemed to be the 
principal occupation of her leisure hours. We had 
often exchanged nods and smiles — and a few words, 
too. She was a pretty creature. And once I had 
watched her approvingly m^^ke fmmy and expressive 


grimaces behind Heemskirk's back. I understood 
(from Jasper) that she was in the secret, Uke a comedy 
camerista. She was to accompany Freya on her ir- 
regular way to matrimony and "ever after" happiness. 
" Why should she be roaming by night near the cove — 
unless on some love affair of her own? " I asked myself. 
But there was nobody suitable within the Seven Isles 
group, as far as I knew. It flashed upon me that it was 
myself she had been lying in wait for. 

She hesitated, muffled from head to foot, shadowy 
and bashful. I advanced another pace, and how I 
felt is nobody's business. 

"What is it.^" I asked, very low. 

"Nobody knows I am here," she whispered. 

"And nobody can see us," I whispered back. 

The murmur of words "I've been so frightened" 
reached me. Just then forty feet above our head, from 
the yet lighted verandah, unexpected and starthng, 
Freya's voice rang out in a clear, imperious call: 


With a stifled • exclamation, the hesitating girl 
vanished out of the path. A bush near by rustled; then 
silence. I waited wondering. The lights on the 
verandah went out. I waited a while longer th«i 
continued down the path to my boat, wondering more 
than ever. 

I remember the occurrences of that visit especially, 
because this was the last time I saw the Nelson bunga- 
low. On arriving at the Straits I found cable messages 
which made it necessary for me to throw up my em- 
ployment at a moment's notice and go home at once. I 
had a desperate scramble to catch the mailboat which 
was due to leave next day, but I found time to write 
two short notes, one to Freya, the other to Jasper. 
Later on I wrote at length, this time to Allen alone. I 



got no answer. I hunted up then his brother, or, 
rather, half-brother, a soUcitor in the city, a sallow, 
calm, little man who looked at me over his spectacles 

Jasj>er was the only child of his father's second 
marriage, a transaction which had failed to commend 
itself to the first, grown-up family. 

"You haven't heard for ages," I repeated, with secret 
annoyance. "May I ask what 'for ages' means in this 

"It means that I don't care whether I ever hear from 
him or not," retorted the little man of law, turning 
nasty suddenly. 

I could not blame Jasj>er for not wasting his time in 
correspondence with such an outrageous relative. But 
why didn't he write to me — a decent sort of friend, 
after all; enough of a friend to find for his silence the 
excuse of forgetfulness natural to a state of transcen- 
dental bliss? I waited indulgently, but nothing ever 
came. And the East seemed to drop out of my life 
without an echo, like a stone falling into a well of 
prodigious depth. 


I SUPPOSE praiseworthy motives are a sufficient justi- 
fication almost for anything. What could be more 
commendable in the abstract than a girl's determina- 
tion that "poot papa" should not be worried, and her 
anxiety that the man of her choice should be kept by 
any means from every occasion of doing something 
rash, something which might endanger the whole 
scheme of their happiness? 

Nothing could be more tender and more prudent. 
We must also remember the girl's self-reliant tempera- 


ment, and the general unwillingness of women — ^I mean 
women of sense — to make a fuss over matters of th. 

As has been said already, Heemskirk turned up soi 
time after Jasper's arrival at Nelson's Cove. The sigh 
of the brig lying right under the bungalow was ve 
offensive to him. He did not fly ashore before h 
anchor touched the ground as Jasper used to do. 
the contrary, he hung about his quarter-deck mumblii 
to himself; and when he ordered his boat to be manned 
it was in an angry voice. Freya's existence, which 
lifted Jasper out of himself into a blissful elation, was for 
Heemskirk a cause of secret torment, of hours of ex- 
asperated brooding. 

While passing the brig he hailed her harshly ai 
asked if the master was on board. Schultz, smart an* 
neat in a spotless white suit, leaned over the taffrail, 
finding the question somewhat amusing. He looked 
humorously down into Heemskirk's boat, and answered, 
in the most amiable modulations of his beautiful voice: 
"Captain Allen is up at the house, sir." But his ex- 
pression changed suddenly at the savage growl : " What 
the devil are you grinning at?" which acknowledged 
that information. 

He watched Heemskirk land and, instead of going 
to the house, stride away by another path into the 

The desire-tormented Dutchman found old Nelson 
(or Nielsen) at his drying-sheds, very busy superinten,d- 
ing the manipulation of his tobacco crop, which, though 
small, was of excellent quaUty, and enjoying himself 
thoroughly. But Heemskirk soon put a stop- to this 
simple happiness. He sat down by the old diap, and 
by the sort of talk which he knew was best calculated 
for the purpose, reduced him before long to a state ol 


concealed and perspiring nervousness. It was a horrid 

Ik of "authorities," and old Nelson tried to defend 
imself . If he dealt with English traders it was because 

^had to dispose of his produce somehow. He was as 
pnciliatory as he knew how to be, and this very thing 

^med to excite Heemskirk, who had worked himself 

p into a heavily breathing state of passion. 

^ "And the worst of them all is that Allen," he growled. 

'Your particular friend — eh? You have let in a lot of 

liiese Englishmen into this part. You ought never to 

have been allowed to settle here. Never. What's he 

doing here now?" 

Old Nelson (or Nielsen), becoming very agitated, 
\^clared that Jasper Allen was no particular friend 

Jiis. No friend at all — at all. He had bought three 
ons of rice from him to feed his workpeople on. What 
sort of evidence of friendship was that? Heemskirk 
burst out at last with the thought that had been gnaw- 
ing at his vitals: 

"Yes. Sell three tons of rice and flirt three days 
with that girl of yours. I am speaking to you as a 
friend, Nielsen. This won't do. You are only on 
suflFerance here." 

Old Nelson was taken aback at first, bat recovered 
pretty quickly. Won't do! Certainly! Of course, 
it wouldn't do! The last man in the world. But his 
girl didn't care for the fellow, and was too sensible to 
fall in love with any one. He was very earnest in 
impressing on Heemskirk hij? own feeling of absolute 
security. And the lieutenant, casting doubting glances 
sideways, was yet willing to believe him. 

"Much you know about it," he grunted neverthe- 

"But I do know," insisted old Nelson, with the 
greater desperation because he wanted to resist the 


doubts arising in his own mind. "My own daughter! 
In my own house, and I not to know! Come! It 
would be a good joke, lieutenant." 

"They seem to be carrying on considerably," re- 
marked Heemskirk moodily. "I suppose they are 
together now," he added, feeling a pang which changed 
what he meant for a mocking smile into a strange 

The harassed Nelson shook his hand at him. He 
was at bottom shocked at this insistence, and was even 
beginning to feel annoyed at the absurdity of it. 

"Pooh! Pooh! I'll tell you what, lieutenant: you 
go to the house and have a drop of gin-and-bitters before 
dinner. Ask for Freya. I must see the last of this 
tobacco put away for the night, but I'll be along 

Heemskirk was not insensible to this suggestion. It 
answered to his secret longing, which was not a longing 
for drink, however. Old Nelson shouted sohcitously 
after his broad back a recommendation to make himself 
comfortable, and that there was a box of cheroots on the 

It was the west verandah that old Nelson meant, 
the one which was the hving-room of the house, and 
had split-rattan screens of the very finest quahty. The 
east verandah, sacred to his own privacy, puffing out 
of cheeks, and other signs of perplexed thinking, was 
fitted with stout blinds of sailcloth. The north 
verandah was not a verandah at all, really. It was 
more like a long balcony. It did not communicate 
with the other two, and could only be approached by 
a passage inside the house. Thus it had a privacy 
which made it a convenient place for a maiden's medita- 
tions without words, and also for the discourses, ap- 
parently without sense, which, passing between a 


young man and a maid, become pregnant with a di- 
versity of transcendental meanings. 

This north verandah was embowered with climbing 
plants. Freya, whose room opened out on it, had 
furnished it as a sort ctf boudoir for herself, with a few 
cane chairs and a sofa of the same kind. On this sofa 
she and Jasper sat as close together as is possible in this 
imperfect world where neither can a body be in two 
places at once nor yet two bodies can be in one place at 
the same time. They had been sitting together all the 
afternoon, and I won't say that their talk had been 
without sense. Loving him with a little judicious 
anxiety lest in his elation he should break his heart over 
some mishap, Freya naturally would talk to him 
soberly. He, nervous and brusque when away from 
her, appeared always as if overcome by her visibility, 
by the great wonder of being palpably loved. An old 
man's child, having lost his mother early, thrown out to 
sea out of the way while very young, he had not much 
experience of tenderness of any kind. 

In this private, foliage-embowered verandah, and at 
this late hour of the afternoon, he bent down a little, 
and, possessing himself of Freya's hands, was kissing 
them one after another, while she smiled and looked 
down at his head with the eyes of approving com- 
passion. At that same moment Heemskirk was ap- 
proaching the house from the north. 

Antonia was on the watch on that side. But she 
did not keep a very good watch. The sun was setting; 
she knew that her young mistress and the captain of 
the Bonito were about to separate. She was walking 
to and fro in the dusky grove with a flower in her hair, 
and singing softly to herself, when suddenly, within a 
foot of her, the heutenant appeared from behind a tree. 
She bounded aside like a startled fawn* but Heemskirk. 


with a lucid comprehension of what she was there for, 
pounced upon her, and, catching her arm, clapped his 
other thick hand over her mouth. 

"If you try to make a noise I'll twist your neck!" 

This ferocious figure of speech terrified the girl 
suflSciently. Heemskirk had seen plainly enough on 
the verandah Freya's golden head with another head 
very close to it. He dragged the unresisting maid with 
him by a circuitous way into the compound, where he 
dismissed her with a vicious push in the direction of the 
cluster of bamboo huts for the servants. 

She was very much like the faithful camerista of 
Italian comedy, but in her terror she bolted away 
without a sound from that thick, short, black-eyed 
man with a cruel grip of fingers like a vice. Quaking 
all over at a distance, extremely scared and half in- 
clined to laugh, she saw him enter the house at the back. 

The interior of the bungalow was divided by two 
passages crossing each other in the middle. At that 
point Heemskirk by turning his head slightly to the 
left as he passed, secured the evidence of "carrying on" 
so irreconcilable with old Nelson's assurances that it 
made him stagger, with a rush of blood to his head. 
Two white figures, distinct against the light, stood in 
an unmistakable attitude. Freya's arms were round 
Jasper's neck. Their faces were characteristically 
superimposed on each other, and Heemskirk went on, 
his throat choked with a sudden rising of curses, till on 
the west verandah he stiunbled blindly against a chair 
and then dropped into another as though his legs had 
been swept from under him. He had indulged too 
long in the habit of appropriating Freya to himself in 
his thoughts. "Is that how you entertain' your 
visitors — ^you . . ."he thought, so outraged that 
he could not find a suflSciently degrading epithet. 


Freya struggled a little and threw her head back. 

"Somebody has come in," she whispered. Jasper, 
holding her clasped closely to his breast, and looking 
down into her face, suggested casually: 

"Your father." 

Freya tried to disengage herself, but she had not the 
heart absolutely to push him away with her hands. 

"I believe it's Heemskirk," she breathed out at him. 

He, plunging into her eyes in a quiet rapture, was 
provoked to a vague smile by the sound of the name. 

" The ass is always knocking down my beacons out- 
side the river," he murmured. He attached no other 
meaning to Heemskirk's existence; but Freya was ask- 
ing herself whether the lieutenant had seen them. 

"Let me go, kid," she ordered in a peremptory 
whisper. Jasper obeyed, and, stepping back at once, 
continued his contemplation of her face under another 
angle. "I must go and see," she said to herself 

She instructed him hurriedly to wait a moment after 
she was gone and then to slip on to the back verandah 
and get a quiet smoke before he showed himself. 

"Don't stay late this evening," was her last recom- 
mendation before she left him. 

Then Freya came out on the west verandah with her 
light, rapid step. While going through the doorway 
she managed to shake down the folds of the looped-up 
curtains at the end of the passage so as to cover Jasper's 
retreat from the bower. Directly she appeared Heems- 
kirk jumped up as if to fly at her. She paused and he 
made her an exaggerated low bow. 

It irritated Freya. 

"Oh! It's you, Mr. Heemskirk. How do you 

She spoke in her usual tone. Her face was not 


plainly visible to him in the dusk of the deep verandah. 
He dared not trust himself to speak, his rage at what 
he had seen was so great. And when she added with 
serenity: "Papa will be coming in before long," he 
called her horrid names silently, to himself, before he 
spoke with contorted lips. 

"I have seen your father already. We had a talk 
in the sheds. He told me some very interesting things. 
Oh, very " 

Preya sat down. She thought: "He has seen us, 
for certain." She was not ashamed. What she was 
^fraid of was some foolish or awkward complication. 
But she could not conceive how much her person had 
been appropriated by Heemskirk (in his thoughts). 
She tried to be conversational. 

You are coming now from Palembang, I suppose?" 
Eh? What? Oh, yes! I come from Palembang. 
Ha, ha, ha! You know what your father said? He 
said he was afraid you were having a very dull time 
of it here." 

"And I suppose you are going to cruise in the Mo- 
luccas," continued Freya, who wanted to impart some 
useful information to Jasper if possible. At the same 
time she was always glad to know that those two men 
were a few hundred miles apart when not imder her eye. 

Heemskirk growled angrily. 

"Yes. Moluccas," glaring in the direction of her 
shadowy figure. "Your father thinks it's very quiet 
for you here. I tell you what. Miss Freya. There 
isn't such a quiet sj>ot on earth that a woman can't 
find an opportunity of making a fool of somebody." 

Freya thought: "I mustn't let him provoke me." 
Presently the Tamil boy, who was Nelson's head 
servant, came in with the hghts. She addressed him at 
once with voluble directions where to put the lamps« 


told him to bring the tray with the gin-and-bitters, and 
to send Antonia into the house. 

^ "I will have to leave you to yourself, Mr. Heems- 
kirk, for a while," she said. 

And she went to her room to put on another frock, 
She made a quick change of it because she wished to 
be on the verandah before her father and the lieutenant 
met again. She relied on herself to regulate that 
evening's intercourse between these two. But Antonia, 
still scared and hysterical, exhibited a bruise on her 
arm which roused Freya's indignation. 

"He jumped on me out of the bush like a tiger," 
said the girl, laughing nervously with frightened eyes. 

"The brute!" thought Freya. "He meant to spy 
on us, then." She was enraged, but the recollection 
of the thick Dutchman in white trousers wide at the 
hips and narrow at the ankles, with his shoulder-straps 
and black bullet head, glaring at her in the light of the 
lamps, was so repulsively comical that she could not 
help a smiling grimace. Then she became anxious. 
The absurdities of three men were forcing this anxiety 
upon her: Jasper's impetuosity, her father's fears, 
Heemskirk's infatuation. She .was very tender to the 
first two, and she made up her mind to display all her 
feminine diplomacy. All this, she said to herself, will 
be over and done with before very long now. 

Heemskirk on the verandah, lolling in a chair, his 
legs extended and his white cap reposing on his stomach, 
was lashing himself into a fury of an atrocious character 
altogether incomprehensible to a girl like Freya. His 
chin was resting on his chest, his eyes gazed stonily 
at his shoes. Freya examined him from behind the 
curtain. He didn't stir. He was ridiculous. But this 
absolute stillness was impressive. She stole back along 
the passage to the east verandah, where Jasper was 


sitting quietly in the dark, doing what he was told, like 
a good boy. 

"Psst," she hissed. He was by her side in a mo-» 

"Yes. What is it?" he murmured. 

"It's that beetle," she whispered uneasily. Under 
the impression of Heemskirk*s sinister immobility she 
had half a mind to let Jasper know that they had been 
seen. But she was by no means certain that Heems- 
kirk would tell her father — and at any rate not that 
evening. She concluded rapidly that the safest thing 
would be to get Jasper out of the way as soon as 

"What has he been doing?" asked Jasper in a calm 

"Oh, nothing! Nothing. He sits there looking 
cross. But you know how he's always worrying papa." 

"Your father's quite unreasonable," pronoimced 
Jasper judicially. 

"I don't know," she said in a doubtful tone. Some- 
thing of old Nelson's dread of the authorities had 
rubbed oflf on the girl since she had to live with it day 
after day. "I don't know. Papa's afraid of being 
reduced to beggary, as he says, in his old days. Look 
here, kid, you had better clear out to-morrow, iSrst 

Jasper had hoj>ed for another afternoon with Freya, 
an afternoon of quiet felicity with the girl by his side 
and his eyes on his brig, anticipating a blissful future. 
His silence was eloquent with disappointment, and 
Freya understood it very well. She, too, was dis- 
appointed. But it was her business to be sensible. 

"We shan't have a moment to ourselves with that 
beetle creeping round the house," she argued in a low, 
hurried voice. "So what's the good of your staying? 


And he won^t go wmie the brig's here. You know he 

"He ought to be reported for loitering," Inurmured 
Jasper with a vexed Kttle laugh. 

"Mind you get under way at daylight," recom- 
mended Freya under her breath. 

He detained her after the manner of lovers. She 
expostulated without strugghng because it was hard 
for her to repulse him. He whispered into her ear 
while he put his arms round her. 

"Next time we two meet, next time I hold you like 
this, it shall be on board. You and I, in the brig — 

all the world, all the life " And then he flashed 

out: "I wonder I can wait! I feel as if I must carry 
you oflf now, at once. I could run with you in my. 
hands — down the path — without stumbling — without 
touching the earth " 

She was still. She listened to the passion in his voice. 
She was saying to herself that if she were to whisper the 
faintest yes, if she were but to sigh lightly her consent, 
he would do it. He was capable of doing it — without 
touching the earth. She closed her eyes and smiled in 
the dark, abandoning herself in a delightful giddiness, 
for an instant, to his encircling arm. But before he 
could be tempted to tighten his grasp she was out of it, 
a foot away from him and in full possession of herself. 

That was the steady Freya. She was touched by 
the deep sigh which floated up to her from the white 
figure of Jasper, who did not stir. 

"You are a mad kid," she said tremulously. Then 
with a change of tone: "No one could carry me off. 
Not even you. I am not the sort of girl that gets 
carried off." His white form seemed to shrink a little 
before the force of that assertion and she relented. 
"Isn't it enough for you to know that you have — ^that 


you have carried me away?" she added in a tender 

He murmured an endearing word, and she continued: 

"IVe promised you — ^IVe said I would come — and 
I shall come of my own free will. You shall wait for 
me on board. I shall get up the side — by myself, and 
walk up to you on the deck and say : * Here I am, kid.' 
And then — and then I shall be carried off. But it will 
be no man who will carry me off— it will be the brig, 
your brig — our brig. ... I love the beauty!*' 

She heard an inarticulate sound, something like a 
moan wrung out by pain or delight, and glided away. 
There was that other man on the other verandah, that 
dark, surly Dutchman who could make trouble between 
Jasper and her father, bring about a quarrel, ugly 
words, and perhaps a physical collision. What a 
horrible situation ! But, even putting aside that awful 
extremity, she shrank from having to live for some 
three months with a wretched, tormented, angry, dis- 
tracted, absurd man. And when the day came, the 
day and the hour, what should she do if her father 
tried to detain her by main force — ^as was, after all, 
possible.'^ Could she actually struggle with him hand 
to hand? But it was of lamentations and entreaties 
that she was really afraid. Could she withstand them? 
What an odious, cruel, ridiculous position would that be! 

"But it won't be. He'll say nothing," she thought 
as she came out quickly on the west verandah, and, 
seeing that Heemskirk did not move, sat down on a 
chair near the doorway and kept her eyes on him. The 
outraged lieutenant had not changed his attitude; only 
his cap had fallen oflf his stomach and was lying on the 
floor. His thick black eyebrows were knitted by a 
frown, while he looked at her out of the corners of his 
eyes. And their sideways glance in conjunction with 


the hooked nose, the whole bulky, ungainly, sprawling 
person, struck Freya as so comically moody that, in- 
wardly discomposed as she was, she could not help 
smiling. She did her best to give that smile a con- 
ciliatory character. She did not want to provoke 
Heemskirk needlessly. 

And the lieutenant, perceiving that smile, was 
mollified. It never entered his head that his outward 
appearance, a naval officer, in uniform, could appear 
ridiculous to that girl of no position — the daughter of 
old Nielsen. The recollection of her arms round 
Jasper's neck still irritated and excited him. "The 
hussy!" he thought. "Smiling — eh? That's how you 
are amusing yourself. Fooling your father finely, aren't 
you? You have a taste for that sort of fun — ^have 

you? Well, we shall see " He did not alter his 

position, but on his pursed-up lips there also appeared 
a smile of surly and ill-omened amusement, while his 
eyes returned to the contemplation of his boots. 

Freya felt hot with indignation. She sat radiantly 
fair in the lamplight, her strong, well-shaped hands 
lying one on top of the other in her lap. . . . 
"Odious creature," she thought. Her face coloured 
with sudden anger. "You have scared my maid out of 
her senses," she said aloud. "What possessed you?" 

He was thinking so deeply of her that the sound of 
her voice, pronouncing these unexpected words, startled 
him extremely. He jerked up his head and looked so 
bewildered that Freya insisted impatiently: 

"I mean Antonia. You have bruised her arm. 
What did you do it for?" 

"Do you want to quarrel with me?" he asked 
thickly, with a sort of amazement. He blinked Uke 
an owl. He was funny. Freya, hke all women, had 
a keen sense of the ridiculous in outward appearance. 


"Well, no; I don't think I do." She could not 
help herself. She laughed outright, a clear, neryous 
laugh in which Heemskirk joined suddenly with a harsh 
"Ha, ha, ha!" 

Voices and footsteps were heard in the passage, and 
Jasper, with old Nelson, came out. Old Nelson looked 
at his daughter approvingly, for he liked the lieutenant 
to be kept in good humour. And he also joined 
sympathetically in the laugh. "Now, lieutenant, we 
shall have some dinner," he said, rubbing his hands 
cheerily. Jasper had gone straight to the balustrade. 
The sky was full of stars, and in the blue velvety night 
the cove below had a denser blackness, in which the 
riding-lights of the brig and of the gunboat glimmered 
redly, like suspended sparks. "Next time this riding- 
light gUmmers down there, I'll be waiting for her on the 
quarter-deck to come and say *Here I am,'" Jasper 
thought; and his heart seemed to grow bigger in his 
chest, dilated by an oppressive happiness that nearly 
wrung out a cry from him. There was no wind. Not 
a leaf below him stirred, and even the sea was but a 
still uncomplaining shadow. Far away on the un- 
clouded sky the pale lightning, the heat-lightning of 
the tropics, played tremulously amongst the low stars 
in short, faint, mysteriously consecutive flashes, like in- 
comprehensible signals from some distant planet. 

The dinner passed off quietly. Freya sat facing her 
father, calm but pale. Heemskirk affected to talk only 
to old Nelson. Jasper's behaviour was exemplary. 
He kept his eyes under control, basking in the sense 
of Freya's nearness, as people bask in the sun without 
looking up to heaven. And very soon after dinner 
was over, mindful of his instructions, he declared that 
it was time for him to go on board his ship. 

Heemskirk did not look up. Ensconced in the 


rocking-chair, and puflSng at a cheroot, he had the air 
of meditating suriily over some odious outbreak. So 
at least it seemed to Freya. Old Nelson said at once 
"I'll stroll down with you/' He had begun a pro- 
fessional conversation about the dangers of the New 
Guinea coast, and wanted to relate to Jasper some 
experience of his own *^over there." Jasper was such 
a good listener! Freya made as if to accompany them 
but her father frowned, shook his head, and nodded 
significantly towards the immovable Heemskirk blow- 
ing out smoke with half-closed eyes and protruded lips. 
The lieutenant must not be left alone. Take offence, 

Freya obeyed these signs. "Perhaps it is better for 
me to stay," she thought. Women are not generally 
prone to review their own conduct, still less to condemn 
it. The embarrassing masculine absurdities are in the 
main responsible for its ethics. But, looking at Heems- 
kirk, Freya felt regret and even remorse. His thick 
bulk in repose suggested the idea of repletion, but as 
a matter of fact he* had eaten very little. He had 
drunk a great deal, however. The fleshy lobes of his 
impleasant big ears with deeply folded rims were 
crimson. They quite flamed in the neighbourhood of 
the flat, sallow cheeks. For a considerable time he 
did not raise his heavy brown eyelids. To be at the 
mercy of such a creature was humiliating; and Freya, 
who always ended by being frank with herself, thought 
regretfully: "If only I had been open with papa from 
the first! But then what an impossible life he would 
have led me ! " Yes. Men were absurd in many ways ; 
lovably like Jasper, impracticably like her father 
odiously like that grotesquely supine creature in tht 
chair. Was it possible to talk him over.'^ Perhaps it 
was not necessary? *^0h! I can't talk to him," she 


thought. And when Heemskirk, still without looking 
at her, began resolutely to crush his half -smoked cheroot 
on the cofiFee-tray, she took alarm, glided towards the 
piano, opened it in tremendous haste, and struck the 
keys before she sat down. 

In an instant the verandah, the whole carpetless 
wooden bungalow raised on piles, became filled with 
an uproarious, confused resonance. But through it all 
she heard, she felt on the floor the heavy, prowling 
footsteps of the lieutenant moving to and fro at her 
back. He was not exactly drunk, but he was suflB- 
ciently primed to make the suggestions of his excited 
imagination seem perfectly feasible and even clever; 
beautifully, unscrupulously clever. Freya, aware that 
he had stopped just behind her, went on playing without 
turning her head. She played with spirit, brilliantly, a 
fierce piece of music, but when his voice reached her she 
went cold all over. It was the voice, not the words. 
The insolent familiarity of tone dismayed her to such an 
extent that she could not understand at first what he 
was saying. His utterance was thick, too. 

"I suspected. . ,. . Of course I suspected some- 
thing of your Uttle goings on. I am not a child. But 
from suspecting to seeing — seeing, you understand — 
there's an enormous difference. That sort of thing. . . . 
Come! One isn't made of stone. And when a man 
has been worried by a girl as I have been worried by 
you, Miss Freya — sleeping and waking, then, of course. 
. . . But I am a man of the world. It must be dull 
for you here ... I say, won't you leave oflF this 
confounded playing . . . ?" 

This last was the only sentence really which she made 
out. She shook her head negatively, and in desperation 
put on the loud pedal, but she could not make the 
sound of the piano cover Iiis raised voice. 


"Only, I am surprised that you should. . . . An 
English trading skipper, a common fellow. Low, 
cheeky lot, infesting these islands. I would make short 
work of such trash ! While you have here a good friend, 
a gentleman ready to worship at your feet — ^your pretty 
feet — an oflScer, a man of family. Strange, isn't it? 
But what of that! You are fit for a prince." 

Freya did not turn her head. Her face went stiff 
with horror and indignation. This adventure was al- 
together beyond her conception of what was possible. 
It was not in her character to jump up and run away. 
It seemed to her, too, that if she did move there was 
no saying what might happen. Presently her father 
would be back, and then the other would have to leave 
off. It was best to ignore— to ignore. She went on 
playing loudly and correctly, as though she were alone, 
as if Heemskirk did not exist. That proceeding ir- 
ritated him. 

"Come! You may deceive your father," he bawled 
angrily, "but I am not to be made a fool of! Stop this 
infernal noise . . . Freya . . . Hey! You 
Scandinavian Goddess of Love! Stop! Do you hear? 
That's what you are — of love. But the heathen gods 
are only devils in disguise, and that's what you are, 
too — a deep little devil. Stop it, I say, or I will lift 
you off that stool!" 

Standing behind her, he devoured her with his eyes, 
from the golden crown of her rigidly motionless head to 
the heels of her shoes, the line of her shapely shoulders, 
the curves of her fine figure swaying a little before the 
keyboard. She had on a hght dress; the sleeves stopped 
short at the elbows in an edging of lace. A satin ribbon 
encircled her waist. In an access of irresistible, reckless 
hopefulness he clapped both his hands on that waist — 
and then the irritating music stopped at last. Butt 


quick as she was in springing away from the contact 
(the round music-stool going over with a crash), Heems- 
kirk's lips, aiming at her neck, landed a hungry, smack- 
ing kiss just under her ear. A deep silence reigned for a 
time. And then he laughed rather feebly. 

He was disconcerted somewhat by her white, still 
face, the big light violet eyes resting on him stonily. 
She had not uttered a sound. She faced him, steadying 
herself on the corner of the piano with one extended 
hand. The other went on rubbing with mechanical 
persistency the place his lips had touched. 

"What's the trouble?" he said, offended. "Startled 
you? Look here: don't let us have any of that non- 
sense. You don't mean to say a kiss frightens you so 
much as all that. ... I know better. ... 1 
don't mean to be left out in the cold." 

He had been gazing into her face with such strained 
intentness that he could no longer see it distinctly. 
Everything round him was rather misty. He forgot 
the overturned stool, caught his foot against it, and 
lurched forward slightly, saying in an ingratiating tone: 

"I'm not bad fun, really. You try a few kisses to 
begin with " 

He said no more, because his head received a terrific 
concussion, accompanied by an explosive sound. Freya 
had swung her round, strong arm with such force that 
the impact of her open palm on his flat cheek turned 
him half round. Uttering a faint, hoarse yell, the 
lieutenant clapped both his hands to the left side of 
his face, which had taken on suddenly a dusky brick-red 
tinge. Freya, very erect, her violet eyes darkened, 
her palm still tingling from the blow, a sort of restrained 
determined smile showing a tiny gleam of her white 
teeth, heard her father's rapid, heavy tread on the 
path below the verandah. Her expression lost its 


pugnacity and became sincerely concerned. She was 
sorry for her father. She stooped quickly to pick up 
the music-stool, as if anxious to obliterate the traces. 
. . . But that was no good. She had resumed her 
attitude, one hand resting lightly on the piano, before 
old Nelson got up to the top of the stairs. 

Poor father! How furious he will be — ^how upset! 
And afterwards, what tremors, what unhappiness! 
Why had she not been open with him from the first? 
His round, innocent stare of amazement cut her to the 
quick. But he was not looking at her. His stare was 
directed to Heemskirk, who, with his back to him and 
with his hands still up to his face, was hissing curses 
through his teeth, and (she saw him in profile) glaring 
at her balefuUy with one black, evil eye. 

"What^s the matter?" asked old Nelson, very much 

She did not answer him. She thought of Jasper on 
the deck of the brig, gazing up at the lighted bungalow, 
and she felt frightened. It was a mercy that one of 
them at least was on board out of the way. She only 
wished he were a hundred miles oflf. And yet she was 
not certain that she did. Had Jasper been mysteriously 
moved that moment to reappear on the verandah she 
would have thrown her consistency, her firnmess, her 
self-j>ossession, to the winds, and flown into his arms. 

"What is it? What is it? " insisted the unsuspecting 
Nelson, getting quite excited. "Only this minute you 
were playing a tune, and " 

Preya, unable to speak in her apprehension of what 
was coming (she was also fascinated by that black, 
evil, glaring eye), only nodded slightly at the lieutenant, 
as much as to say: "Just look at him!" 

"Why, yes!" exclaimed old Nelson. "I see. What 
on earth " 


Meantime he had cautiously approached Heemskirk, 
who, bursting into incoherent imprecations, was stamp- 
ing with both feet where he stood. The indignity of the 
blow, the rage of baffled purpose, the ridicule of the ex- 
posure, and the impossibility of revenge maddened him 
to a point when he simply felt he must howl with fury. 

"Oh, oh, oh!" he howled, stamping across the ver- 
andah as though he meant to drive his foot through the 
floor at every step. 

"Wliy, is his face hurt.'^" asked the astounded old 
Nelson. The truth dawned suddenly upon his innocent 
mind. " Dear me ! " he cried, enlightened. " Get some 
brandy, quick, Freya. . . . You are subject to it, 
lieutenant? Fiendish, eh? I know, I know! Used 
to go crazy all of a sudden myself at the time. . . • 
And the little bottle of laudanum from the medicine- 
chest, too, Freya. Look sharp. . . . Don't you 
see he's got a toothache?" 

And, indeed, what other explanation could have 
presented itself to the guileless old Nelson, beholding 
this cheek nursed with both hands, these wild glances, 
these stampings, this distracted swaying of the body? 
It would have demanded a preternatural acuteness to 
hit upon the true cause. Freya had not moved. She 
watched Heemskirk's savagely inquiring, black stare 
directed stealthily upon herself. "Aha, you would 
like to be let oflF!" she said to herself. She looked at 
him unflinchingly, thinking it out. The temptation 
of making an end of it all without further trouble was 
irresistible. She gave an almost imperceptible nod of 
assent, and glided away. 

"Hurry up that brandy!" old Nelson shouted, as 
she disappeared in the passage. 

Heemskirk relieved his deeper feelings by a sudden 
string of curses in Dutch and English which he sent 


after her. He raved to his heart's content, flinging 
to and fro the verandah and kicking chairs out of his 
way; while Nelson (or Nielsen), whose sympathy was 
profoundly stirred by these evidences of agonising 
pain, hovered round his dear (and dreaded) lieutenant, 
fussing like an old hen. 

"Dear me, dear me! Is it so bad? I know well 
what it is. I used to frighten my poor wife sometimes. 
Do you get it often like this, lieutenant.'^" 

Heemskirk shouldered him viciously out of his way, 
with a short, insane laugh. But his staggering host 
took it in good part; a man beside himself with ex- 
cruciating toothache is not responsible. 

"Go into my room, lieutenant," he suggest^ ur- 
gently. "Throw yourself on my bed. We will get 
something to ease you in a minute." 

He seized the poor sufferer by the arm and forced 
him gently onwards to the very bed, on which Heems- 
kirk, in a renewed access of rage, flung himself down 
with such force that he rebounded from the mattress 
to the height of quite a foot. 

"Dear me!" exclaimed the scared Nelson, and in- 
continently ran off to hurry up the brandy and the 
laudanum, very angry that so little alacrity was shown 
in relieving the tortures of his precious guest. In the 
end he got these things himself. 

Half an hour later he stood in the inner passage of 
the house, surprised by faint, spasmodic sounds of a 
mysterious nature, between laughter and sobs. He 
frowned; then went straight towards his daughter's 
room and knocked at the door. 

Freya, her glorious fair hair framing her white face 
and rippling down a dark-blue dressing-gown, opened 
it partly. 

The light in the room was dim. Antonia, crouching 


in a comer, rocked herself backwards and forwards^ 
uttering feeble moans. Old Nelson had not muck 
experience in various kinds of feminine laughter, but 
he was certain there had been laughter there. 

"Very unfeeling, very unfeeling!" he said, with 
weighty displeasure. "What is there so amusing in 
a man being in pain.'^ I should have thought a woman 
— a young girl " 

"He was so funny," murmured Freya, whose eyes 
glistened strangely in the semi-obscurity of the passage. 
"And then, you know, I don't like him," she added, in 
an unsteady voice. 

"Funny!" repeated old Nelson, amazed at this 
evidence of callousness in one so young. "You don't 
like him ! Do you mean to say that, because you don't 

like him, you Why, it's simply cruel! Don't you 

know it's about the worst sort of pain there is? Dogs 
have been known to go mad with it." 

"He certainly seemed to have gone mad," Freya said 
with an effort, as if she were struggling with some 
hidden feeling. 

But her father was launched. 

"And you know how he is. He notices everything. 
He is a fellow to take offence for the least little thing 
— ^regular Dutchman — and I want to keep friendly with 
him. It's like this, my girl: if. that rajah of ours were 
to do something silly — and you know he is a sulky, 
rebelUous beggar — and the authorities took into their 
heads that my influence over him wasn't good, you 
would find yourself without a roof over your head " 

She cried: "What nonsense, father!" in a not very 
assured tone, and discovered that he was angry, angry 
enough to achieve irony; yes, old Nelson (or Nielsen), 
irony! Just a gleam of it. 

"Oh, of course, if you have means of your own — ^a 


mansion, a plantation that I know nothing of " 

But he was not capable of sustained irony. "I tell you 
they would bundle me out of here," he whispered 
forcibly; "without compensation, of course. I know 
these Dutch. And the lieutenant's just the fellow to 
start the trouble going. He has the ear of influential 
officials. I wouldn't offend him for anything — ^for 
anything — on no consideration whatever. . . . What 
did you say?" 

It was only ^n inarticulate exclamation. If she ever 
had a half -formed intention of telling him everything she 
had given it up now. It was impossible, both out of re- 
gard for his dignity and for the peace of his poor mind. 

"I don't care for him myself very much," old 
Nelson's subdued undertone confessed in a sigh. " He's 
easier now," he went on, after a silence. "I've given 
him up my bed for the night. I shall sleep on my 
verandah, in the hammock. No; I can't say I like him 
either, but from that to laugh at a man because he's 
driven crazy with pain is a long way. You've surprised 
me, Freya. That side of his face is quite flushed." 

Her shoulders shook convulsively under his hands, 
which he laid on her paternally. His straggly, wiry 
moustache brushed her forehead in a good-night kiss. 
She closed the door, and went away from it to the 
middle of the room before she allowed herself a tired-out 
sort of laugh, without buoyancy. 

" Flushed ! A little flushed ! " she repeated id herself. 
" I hope so, indeed ! A little " 

Her eyelashes were wet. Antonia, in her corner, 
moaned and giggled, and it was impossible to tell where 
the moans ended and the giggles began. 

The mistress and the maid had been somewhat 
hysterical, for Freya, on fleeing into her room, had 
foimd Antonia there, and had told her everything. 


"I have avenged you, my girl," she exclaimed. 

And then they had laughingly cried and cryingly 
laughed with admonitions — "Ssh, not so loud! Be 
quiet!" on one part, and interludes of "I am so 
frightened. . . . He's an evil man," on the other. 

Antonia was very much afraid of Heemskirk. She 
was afraid of him because of his personal appearance: 
because of his eyes and his eyebrows, and his mouth 
and his nose and his limbs. Nothing could be more 
rational. And she thought him an evil man, because, 
to her eyes, he looked evil. No ground for an opinion 
could be sounder. In the dimness of the room, with 
only a nightlight burning at the head of Freya's bed, 
the camerista crept out of her corner to crouch at the 
feet of her mistress, supplicating in whispers: 

"There's the brig. Captain Allen. Let us run 
away at once — oh, let us run away ! I am so frightened. 
Let us! Let us!" 

"I! Run away!" thought Freya to herself, without 
looking down at the scared girl. "Never." 

Both the resolute mistress under the mosquito-net 
and the frightened maid lying curled up on a mat at 
the foot of the bed did not sleep very well that night. 
The person that did not sleep at all was Lieutenant 
Heemskirk. He lay on his back staring vindictively 
in the darkness. Inflaming images and humiliating 
reflections succeeded each other in his mind, keeping 
up, augmenting his anger. A pretty tale this to get 
about! But it must not be allowed to get about. The 
outrage had to be swallowed in silence. A pretty 
aflFair! Fooled, led on, and struck by the girl — and 
probably fooled by the father, too. But no. Nielsen 
was but another victim of that shameless hussy, that 
brazen minx, that sly, laughing, kissing, lying . . . 

"No; he did not deceive me on purpose," thought 


the tormented lieutenant. "But I should like to pay 
him off, all the same, for being such an imbecile '* 

Well, some day, perhaps. One thing he was firmly 
resolved on: he had made up his mind to steal early out 
of the house. He did not think he could face the girl 
without going out of his mind with fury. 

"Fire and perdition! Ten thousand devils! I shall 
choke here before the morning!" he muttered to 
himself, lying rigid on his back on old Nelson's bed, his 
breast heaving for air. 

He arose at daylight and started cautiously to open 
the door. Faint sounds in the passage alarmed him, 
and remaining concealed he saw Freya coming out. 
This unexpected sight deprived him of all power to 
move away from the crack of the door. It was the 
narrowest crack possible, but commanding the view of 
the end of the verandah. Freya made for that end 
hastily to watch the brig passing the point. She wore 
her dark dressing-gown; her feet were bare, because, 
having fallen asleep towards the morning, she ran out 
headlong in her fear of being too late. Heemskirk had 
never seen her looking like this, with her hair drawn 
back smoothly to the shape of her head, and hanging in 
one heavy, fair tress down her back, and with that air 
of extreme youth, intensity, and eagerness. And at 
first he was amazed, and then he gnashed his teeth. He 
could not face her at all. He muttered a curse, and 
kept still behind the door. 

With a low, deep-breathed "Ah!" when she first saw 
the brig already under way, she reached for Nelson's 
long glass reposing on brackets high up the wall. 
The wide sleeve of the dressing-gown slipped back, un- 
covering her white arm as far as the shoulder. Heems- 
kirk gripping the door-handle, as if to crush it, felt like 
a man just risen to his feet from a drinking bout. 


And Freya knew that he was watching her. She 
knew. She had seen the door move as she came out of 
the passage. She was aware of his eyes being on her, 
with scornful bitterness, with triumphant contempt. 

"You are there," she thought, levelling the long 
glass. "Oh, well, look on, then!" 

The green islets appeared like black shadows, the 
ashen sea was smooth as glass, the clear robe of the 
colourless dawn, in which even the brig appeared 
shadowy, had a hem of light in the east. Directly 
Freya had made out Jasper on deck with his own long 
glass directed to the bungalow, she laid hers down and 
raised both her beautiful white arms above her head. 
In that attitude of supreme cry she stood still, glowing 
with the consciousness of Jasper's adoration going out 
to her figure held in the field of his glass away there, and 
warmed, too, by the feeling of evil passion, the burning, 
covetous eyes of the other, fastened on her back. In 
the fervour of her love, in the caprice of her mind, and 
with that mysterious knowledge of masculine nature 
women seem to be bom to, she thought: 

"You are. looking on — ^you will — ^you must! Then 
you shall see something." 

She brought both her hands to her lips, then flung 
them out, sending a kiss over the sea, as if she wanted 
to throw her heart along with it on the deck of the brig. 
Her face was rosy, her eyes shone. Her repeated, 
passionate gesture seemed to fling kisses by the hundred 
again and again and again, while the slowly ascending 
sun brought the glory of colour to the world, turning 
the islets green, the sea blue, the brig below her white — 
dazzlingly white in the spread of her wings — with the 
red ensign streaming like a tiny flame from the peak. 
And each time she murmured with a rising inflexion: 
"Take this — and this — and this " till suddenly her 


arms fell. She had seen the ensign dipped in response, 
and next moment the point below hid the hull of the 
brig from her view. Then she turned away from the 
balustrade, and, passing slowly before the door of her 
father's room with her eyelids lowered, and an enig- 
matic expression on her face, she disappeared behind 
the curtain. 

But instead of going along the passage, she remained 
concealed and very still on the other side to watch 
what would happen. For some time the broad, fur- 
nished verandah remained empty. Then the door of 
old Nelson's room came open suddenly, and Heems- 
kirk staggered out. His hair was rumpled, his eyes 
bloodshot, his unshaven face looked very dark. He 
gazed wildly about, saw his cap on a table, snatched it 
up, and made for the stairs quietly, but with a strange, 
tottering gait, like the last effort of waning strength. 

Shortly after his head had sunk below the level of the 
floor, Freya came out from behind the curtain, with 
compressed, scheming lips, and no softness at all in her 
luminous eyes. He could not be allowed to sneak off 
scot free. Never — never! She was excited, she tingled 
all over, she had tasted blood! He must be made to 
understand that she had been aware of having been 
watched; he must know that he had been seen slinking 
off shamefully. But to run to the front rail and shout 
after him would have been childish, crude — undignified. 
And to shout — what.f* What word? What phrase .^^ 
No; it was impossible. Then how.'^ . . . She 
frowned, discovered it, dashed at the piano, which had 
stood open all night, and made the rosewood monster 
growl savagely in an irritated bass. She struck chords 
as if firing shots after that straddling, broad figure in 
ample white trousers and a dark uniform jacket with 
gold shoulder-straps, and then she pursued him with the 



^ame thing she had played the evening before — a 
modem, fierce piece of love music which had been tried 
more than once against the thunderstorms of the group. 
She accentuated its rhythm with triumphant malice, 
so absorbed in her purpose that she did not notice the 
presence of her father, who, wearing an old threadbare 
ulster of a check pattern over his sleeping-suit, had run 
out from the back verandah to inquire the reason of this 
untimely performance. He stared at her. 

"What on earth .^ . . . Freya!" . . . His 
voice was nearly drowned by the piano. "What's 
become of the lieutenant.'^" he shouted. 

She looked up at him as if her soul were lost in her 
music, with unseeing eyes. 
Wha-a-t.? . . . Where?" 

She shook her head slightly, and went on playing 
louder than before. Old Nelson's innocently anxious 
gaze starting from the open door of his room, explored 
the whole place high and low, as if the lieutenant were 
something small which might have been crawling on 
the floor or clinging to a wall. But a shrill whistle 
coming somewhere from below pierced the ample 
volume of sound rolling out of the piano in gr^at, 
vibrating waves. The lieutenant was down at the 
cove, whistling for the boat to come and take him off to 
his ship. And he seemed to be in a terrific hurry, too, 
for he whistled again almost directly, waited for a mo- 
ment, and then sent out a long, interminable shrill call 
as distressful to hear as though he had shrieked with- 
out drawing breath. Freya ceased playing suddenly. 

"Going on board," said old Nelson, perturbed by 
the event. "What could have made him clear out 
so early .^^ Queer chap. Devilishly touchy, too! I 
shouldn't wonder if it was your conduct last night that 


hurt his feelings. I noticed you, Freya. You as well 
as laughed in his face, while he was suffering agonies 
from neuralgia. It isn't the way to get yourself liked. 
He's offended with you." 

Freya's hands now reposed passive on the keys; she 
bowed her fair head, feeling a sudden discontent, a nervous 
lassitude, as though she had passed through some ex- 
hausting crisis. Old Nelson (or Nielsen), looking ag- 
grieved, was revolving matters of policy in his bald head. 

"I think it would be right for me to go on board just 
to inquire, some time this morning," he declared 
fussily. "Why don't they bring me my morning tea.^ 
Do you hear, Freya .'^ You have astonished me, I must 
say. I didn't think a young girl could be so unfeeling. 
And the lieutenant thinks himself a friend of ours, too! 
What.f* No? Well, he calls himself a friend, and that's 
something to a person in my position. Certainly! 
Oh, yes, I must go on board." 

"Must you.'*" murmured Freya listlessly; then added 
^•^ in her thought : * ' Poor man ! " 

In respect of the next seven weeks, all that is nec- 
essary to say is, first, that old Nelson (or Nielsen) failed 
in paying his politic call. The Neptun gunboat of H. M. 
the King of the Netherlands, commanded by an out- 
raged and infuriated lieutenant, left the cove at an 
unexpectedly early hour. When Freya's father came 
down to the shore, after seeing his precious crop of 
tobacco spread out properly in the sun, she was alread^^ 
steaming round the point. Old Nelson regretted the 
circumstance for many days. 

"Now, I don't know in what disposition the man went 
away," he lamented to his hard daughter. He was 


amazed at her hardness. He was almost frightened by 
her indiflference. 

Next, it must be recorded that the same day the 
gunboat Neptun, steering east, passed the brig Bonito 
becalmed in sight of Carimata, with her head to the 
eastward, too. Her captain, Jasper Allen, giving him- 
self up consciously to a tender, possessive reverie of his 
Freya, did not get out of his long chair on the poop to 
look at the Neptun which passed so close that the smoke 
belching out suddenly from her short black funnel 
rolled between the masts of the Bonito^ obscuring for a 
moment the sunlit whiteness of her sails, consecrated to 
the service of love. Jasper did not even turn his head 
for a glance. But Heemskirk, on the bridge, had 
gazed long and earnestly at the brig from the distance, 
gripping hard the brass rail in front of him, till, the two 
ships closing, he lost all confidence in himself, and 
retreating to the chartroom, pulled the door to with a 
crash. There, his brows knitted, his mouth drawn on 
one side in sardonic meditation, he sat through many 
still hours — a sort of Prometheus in the bonds of unholy 
desire, having his very vitals torn by the beak and 
claws of humiliated passion. 

That species of fowl is not to be shooed oflf as easily 
as a chicken. Fooled, cheated, deceived, led on, out- 
raged, mocked at — beak and claws! A sinister bird! 
The lieutenant had no mind to become the talk of the 
Archipelago, as the naval officer who had had his face 
slapped by a girl. Was it possible that she really 
loved that rascally trader? He tried not to think, 
but worse than thoughts, definite impressions beset 
him in his retreat. He saw her — a vision plain, close 
to, detailed, plastic, coloured, lighted up — he saw her 
hanging round the neck of that fellow. And he shut 
his eyes, only to discover that this was no remedy. 


Then a piano began to play near by, very plainly; and 
he put his fingers to his ears with no better effect. It 
was not to be borne — not in solitude. He bolted out of 
the chartroom, and talked of indifferent things some- 
what wildly with the officer of the watch on the bridge, 
to the mocking accompaniment of a ghostly piano. 

The last thing to be recorded is that Lieutenant 
Heemskirk instead of pursuing his course towards 
Temate, where he was expected, went out of his way 
to call at Makassar, where no one was looking for his 
arrival. Once there, he gave certain explanations and 
laid a certain proposal before the governor, or some 
other authority, and obtained permission to do what 
he thought fit in these matters. Thereupon the 
Neptun^ giving up Temate altogether, steamed north 
in view of the moimtainous coast of Celebes, and then 
crossing the broad straits took up her station on the 
low coast of virgin forests, inviolate and mute, in waters 
phosphorescent at night, deep blue in daytime with 
gleaming green patches over the submerged reefs. Jl^or 
days the Neptun could be seen moving smoothly up and 
down the sombre face of the shore, or hanging about 
with a watchful air near the silvery breaks of broad 
estuaries, under the great luminous sky never softened, 
never veiled, and flooding the earth with the everlasting 
sunshine of the tropics — that sunshine which, in its un- 
broken splendour, oppresses the soul with an inex- 
pressible melancholy more intimate, more penetrating, 
more profound than the grey sadness of the northern 

The trading brig Bonito appeared gliding round a 
sombre forest-clad point of land on the silvery estuary 
of a great river. The breath of air that gave her mo- 


tion would not have fluttered the flame of a torch. 
She stole out into the open from behind a veil of un- 
stirring leaves, mysteriously silent, ghostly white, and 
solemnly stealthy in her imperceptible progress; and 
Jasper, his elbow in the main rigging, and his head 
leaning against his hand, thought of Freya. Every- 
thing in the world reminded him of her. The beauty 
of the loved woman exists in the beauties of Nature. 
The swelling outlines of the hills, the curves of a coast, 
the free sinuosities of a river are less suave than the 
harmonious lines of her body, and when she moves, 
gliding lightly, the grace of her progress suggests the 
power of occult forces which rule the fascinating aspects 
of the visible world. 

Dependent on things as all men are, Jasper loved his 
vessel — the house of his dreams. He lent to her some- 
thing of Freya's soul. Her deck was the foothold of 
their love. The j>ossessiou of his brig appeased his 
passion in a soothing certitude of happiness already 

The full moon was some way up, perfect and serene, 
floating in air as calm and limpid as the glance of 
Freya's eyes. There was not a sound in the brig. 

"Here she will stand, by my side, on evenings like 
this," he thought, with rapture. 

And it was at that moment, in this peace, in this 
serenity, under the full, benign gaze of the moon pro- 
pitious to lovers, on a sea without a wrinkle, under a 
sky without a cloud, as if all Nature had assumed its 
most clement mood in a spirit of mockery, that the 
gunboat Nepturij detaching herself from the dark coast 
under which she had been lying invisible, steamed out 
to intercept the trading brig Bonito standing out to 

Directly the gunboat had been made out emerginir 


from her ambush, Schultz, of the fascinating voice, had 
given signs of strange agitation. All that day., ever 
since leaving the Malay town up the river, he had 
shown a haggard face, going about his duties like a 
man with something weighing on his mind. Jasper 
had noticed it, but the mate, turning away, as though 
he had not liked being looked at, had muttered shame- 
facedly of a headache and a touch of fever. He must 
have had it very badly when, dodging behind his cap- 
tain, he wondered aloud: "What can that fellow want 
with us.'^ " . . . A naked man standing in a freezing 
blast and trying not to shiver could not have spoken 
with a more harshly uncertain intonation. But it 
might have been fever — a cold fit. 

"He wants to make himself disagreeable, simply," 
said Jasper, with perfect good humour. " He has tried 
it on me before. However, we shall soon see." 

And, indeed, before long the two vessels lay abreast 
within easy hail. The brig, with her fine lines and 
her white sails, looked vaporous and sylph-like in the 
moonlight. The gunboat, short, squat, with her 
stumpy dark spars naked like dead trees, raised against 
the luminous sky of that resplendent night, threw a 
heavy shadow on the lane of water between the two 

Freya haunted them both like an ubiquitous spirit, 
and as if she were the only woman in the world. Jasper 
remembered her earnest recommendation to be guarded 
and cautious in all his acts and words while he was away 
from her. In this quite unforeseen encounter he felt 
on his ear the very breath of these hurried admonitions 
customary to the last moment of their partings, heard 
the half -jesting final whisper of the "Mind, kid, I'd 
never forgive you!" with a quick pressure on his arm, 
which he answered by a quiet, confident smile. Heems- 


kirk was haunted in another fashion. There were no 
whispers in it; it was more like visions. He saw that 
girl hanging round the neck of a low vagabond — thai 
vagabond, the vagabond who had just answered his 
hail. He saw her stealing barefooted across a verandah 
with great, clear, wide-open, eager eyes to look at a 
brig — that brig. If she had shrieked, scolded, called 
names! . . . But she had simply triumphed over 
him. That was all. Led on (he firmly believed it), 
fooled, deceived, outraged, struck, mocked at. . . . 
Beak and claws ! The two men, so diflferently haunted 
by Freya of the Seven Isles, were not equally matched. 

In the intense stillness, as of sleep, which had fallen 
upon the two vessels, in a worid that itself seemed but 
a delicate dream, a boat pulled by Javanese sailors 
crossing the dark lane of water came alongside the brig. 
The white warrant officer in her, perhaps the gunner, 
climbed aboard. He was a short man, with a rotund 
stomach and a wheezy voice. His immovable fat face 
looked lifeless in the moonlight, and he walked with his 
thick arms hanging, away from his body as though he 
had been stuffed. His cunning little eyes glittered 
Uke bits of mica. He conveyed to Jasper, in broken 
English, a request to come on board the Neptun. 

Jasp)er had not expected anything so unusual. But 
after a short reflection he decided to show neither 
annoyance, nor even surprise. The river from which 
he had come had been politically disturbed for a couple 
of years, and he was aware that his visits there were 
looked upon with some suspicion. But he did not 
mind much the displeasure of the authorities, so 
terrifying to old Nelson. He prepared to leave the 
brig, and Schultz followed him to the rail as if to say 
something, but in the end stood by in silence. Jasper 
getting over the side, noticed his ghastly face. The 



eyes of the man who had found salvation in the brig 
from the effects of his peculiar psychology looked at 
him with a dumb, beseeching expression. 
What's the matter?" Jasper asked. 
I wonder how this will end?" said he of the beauti- 
ful voice, which had even fascinated the steady Freya 
herself. But where was its charming timbre now? 
These words had sounded like a raven's croak. 
You are ill," said Jasp)er positively. 
I wish I were dead!" was the startling statement 
uttered by Schultz talking to himself in the extremity 
of some mysterious trouble. Jasper gave him a keen 
glance, but this was not the time to investigate the 
morbid outbreak of a feverish man. He did not look 
as though he were actually delirious, and that for the 
moment must suffice. Schultz made a dart forward. 

"That fellow means harm!" he said desperately. 
"He means harm to you. Captain Allen. I feel it, 
and I " 

He choked with inexplicable emotion. 

"All right, Schultz. I won't give him an opening." 
Jasper cut him short and swung himself into the boat. 

On board the Neptun Heemskirk, standing straddle- 
legs in the flood of moonlight, his inky shadow falling 
right across the quarter-deck, made no sign at his 
approach, but secretly he felt something like the heave 
of the sea in his chest at the sight of that man. Jasper 
waited before him in silence. 

Brought face to fac^ in direct personal contact, they 
fell at once into the manner of their casual meetings in 
old Nelson's bungalow. They ignored each other's 
existence — ^Heemskirk moodily; Jasper, with a per- 
fectly colourless quietness. 

** What's going on in that river you've just come out 
oj? " asked the lieutenant straight away. 


*'I know nothing of the troubles, if you mean that," 
Jasper answered. "I've landed there half a cargo of 
rice, for which I got nothing in exchange, and went 
away. There's no trade there now, but they would 
have been starving in another week if I hadn't turned 

"Meddling! English meddling! And suppose the 
rascals don't deserve anything better than to starve, 

"There are women and children there, you know," 
observed Jasper, in his even tone. 

"Oh, yes! When an Englishman talks of women 
and children, you may be sure there's something fishy 
about the business. Your doings will have to be in- 

They spoke in turn, as though they had been dis- 
embodied spirits — mere voices in empty air; for they 
looked at each other as if there had been nothing there, 
or, at most, with as much recognition as one gives to 
an inanimate object, and no more. But now a silence 
fell. Heemskirk had thought, all at once: "She will 
tell him all about it. She will tell him while she hangs 
round his neck laughing." And the sudden desire to 
annihilate Jasper on the spot almost deprived him of 
his senses by its vehemence. He lost the power of 
speech, of vision. For a moment he absolutely couldn't 
see Jasper. But he heard him inquiring, as of the 
world at large: 

"Am I, then, to conclude that the brig is detained.?" 

Heemskirk made a recovery in a flush of malignant 

" She is. I am going to take her to Makassar in tow." 

"The courts will have to decide on the legality of 
this," said Jasper, aware that the matter was becoming 
serious, but with assumed indifference. 


"Oh, yes, the courts! Certainly. And as to you, 
I shall keep you on board here." 

Jasper's dismay at being parted from his ship was 
betrayed by a stony immobility. It lasted but an 
instant. Then he turned away and hailed the brig. Mr. 
Schultz answered: 

"Yes, sir." 

"Get ready to receive a tow-rope from the gunboat! 
We are going to be taken to Makassar." 

" Good God ! What's that for, sir.^ " came an anxious 
cry faintly. 

"Kindness, I suppose," Jasper, ironical, shouted 
with great deliberation. "We might have been — 
becalmed in here — for days. And hospitality. I am 
invited to stay — on board here." 

The answer to this information was a loud ejacula- 
tion of distress. Jasper thought anxiously: "Why, 
the fellow's nerve's gone to pieces;" and with an 
awkward uneasiness of a new sort, looked intently at 
the brig. The thought that he was parted from her — 
for the first time since they came together — shook the 
apparently careless fortitude of his character to its very 
foundations, which were deep. All that time neither 
Heemskirk nor even his inky shadow had stirred in 
the least. 

"I am going to send a boat's crew and an officer 
on board your vessel," he announced to no one in 
particular. Jasper, tearing himself away from the 
absorbed contemplation of the brig, turned round, and, 
without passion, almost without expression in his voice, 
entered his protest against the whole of the proceedings. 
What he was thinking of was the delay. He counted 
the days. Makarsar was actually on his way; and to 
be towed there really saved time. On the other hand, 
^lere would be some vexing formalities to go through. 


But the thing was too absurd. "The beetle's gone 
mad," he thought. "I'll be released at once. And if 
not, Mesman must enter into a bond for me." Mesman 
was a Dutch merchant with whom Jasper had had 
many dealings, a considerable person in Makassar. 

"You protest? H'm!" Heemskirk muttered, and 
for a little longer remained motionless, his legs planted 
well apart, and his head lowered as though he were 
studying his own comical deeply split shadow. Then 
he made a sign to the rotund gunner, who had kept at 
hand, motionless, like a vilely stuffed specimen of a 
fat man, with a lifeless face and glittering little eyes. 
The fellow approached, and stood at attention. 
You will board the brig with a boat's crew!" 
Ya, mynherr!" 

"You will have one of your men to steer her all the 
time," went on Heemskirk, giving his orders in English, 
apparently for Jasper's edification. "You hear.^" 

"Ya, mynherr." 

"You will remain on deck and in charge all the time." 

"Ya, mynherr." 

Jasper felt as if, together with the command of the 
brig, his very heart were being taken out of his breast. 
Heemskirk asked, with a change of tone: 

"What weapons have you on board?" 

At one time all the ships trading in the China Seas 
had a Ucence to carry a certain quantity of firearms for 
purposes of defence. Jasper answered: 

"Eighteen rifles with their bayonets, which were on 
board when I bought her, four years ago. They have 
been declared." 

"Where are they kept?" 

"Fore-cabin. Mate has the key." 

"You will take possession of them," said Heemskirk 
to the gunner. 


"Ya, mynherr." 

"What is this for? What do you mean to imply?'* 
cried out Jasper; then bit his lip. "It's monstrous!" 
he muttered. 

Heemskirk raised for a moment a heavy, as if suffer- 
ing, glance. 

"You may go," he said to his gunner. The fat man 
saluted, and departed. 

During the next thirty hours the steady towing was 
interrupted once. At a signal from the brig, made by 
waving a flag on the forecastle, the gunboat was stopped. 
The badly stuffed specimen of a warrant-officer, getting 
into his boat, arrived on board the Neptun and hurried 
straight into his commander's cabin, his excitement at 
something he had to communicate being betrayed by 
the blinking of his small eyes. These two were closeted 
together for some time, while Jasper at the taffrail 
tried to make out if anything out of the common had 
occurred on board the brig. But nothing seemed to be 
amiss on board. However, he kept a look-out for the 
gunner; and, though he had avoided speaking to any- 
body since he had finished with Heemskirk, he stopped 
that man when he came out on deck again to ask how 
his mat^ was. 

"He was feeling not very well when I left," he ex- 

The fat warrant-officer, holding himself as though 
the effort of carrying his big stomach in front of him 
demanded a rigid carriage, understood with difficulty. 
Not a single one of his features showed the slightest 
animation, but his little eyes blinked rapidly at last. 

"Oh, ya! The mate. Ya, ya! He is very well. 
But, mein Gott, he is one very funny man!" 

Jasper could get no explanation of that remark, 
because the Dutchman got into the boat hurriedly. 


^nd went back on board the brig. But he consoled 
himgelf with the thought that very soon all this un- 
pleasant and rather absurd experience would be over. 
The roadstead of Makassar was in sight already. 
Heemskirk passed by him going on the bridge. For 
the first time the lieutenant looked at Jasper with 
marked intention; and the strange roll of his eyes was 
so funny — it had been long agreed by Jasper and 
Freya that the lieutenant was funny — so ecstatically 
gratified, as though he were rolling a tasty morsel on his 
tongue, that Jasper could not help a broad smile. And 
then he turned to his brig again. 

To see her, his cherished possession, animated by 
something of his Freya's soul, the only foothold of two 
lives on the wide earth, the security of his passion, the 
companion of adventure, the power to snatch the calm, 
adorable Freya to his breast, and carry her off to the 
end of the world; to see this beautiful thing embodying 
worthily his pride and his love, to see her captive at 
the end of a tow-rope was not indeed a pleasant ex- 
perience. It had something nightmarish in it, as, for 
instance, the dream of a wild sea-bird loaded with 

Yet what else could he want to look at.^ Her beauty 
would sometimes come to his heart with the force of 
a spell, so that he would forget where he was. And, 
besides, that sense of superiority which the certitude 
of being loved gives to a young man, that illusion of 
being set above the Fates by a tender look in a woman's 
eyes, helped him, the first shock over, to go through 
these experiences with an amused self-confidence. For 
what evil could touch the elect of Freye.^ 

It was now afternoon, the sun being behind the two 
vessels as they headed for the harbour. "The beetle's 
little joke will soon be over," thought Jasper, without 


any great animosity. As a seaman well acquainted 
with that part of the world, a casual glance was enough 
to tell him what was being done. "Hallo," he thought, 
"he is going through Spermonde Passage. We shall 
be rounding Tamissa reef presently." And again he 
returned to the contemplation of his brig, that main- 
stay of his material and emotional existence which 
would be soon in his hands again. On a sea, calm 
as a millpond, a heavy smooth ripple undulated and 
streamed away from her bows, for the powerful Neptwn 
was towing at great speed, as if for a wager. The 
Dutch gunner appeared on the forecastle of the BonitOj 
and with him a couple of men. They stood looking at 
the coast, and Jasper lost himself in a loverlike trance. 
The deep-toned blast of the gunboat's steam-whistle 
made him shudder by its unexpectedness. Slowly he 
looked about. Swift as lightning he leaped from where 
he stood, bounding forward along the deck. 
"You will be on Tamissa reef!" he yelled. ' 
High up on the bridge Heemskirk looked back over 
his shoulder heavily; two seamen were spinning the 
wheel round, and the Neptun was already swinging 
rapidly away from the edge of the pale water over the 
danger. Ha! Just in time. Jasper turned about 
instantly to watch his brig; and, even before he realised 
that — in obedience, it appears, to Heemskirk's orders 
given beforehand to the gunner — the tow-rope had been 
let go at the blast of the whistle, before he had time to 
cry out or to move a limb, he saw her cast adrift and 
shooting across the gunboat's stern with the impetus of 
her speed. He followed her fine, gliding form with eyes 
growing big with incredulity, wild with horror. The 
cries on board of her came to him only as a dreadful and 
confused murmur through the loud thumping of blood 
in his ears, while she held on, . She ran upright iii a 


terrible display of her gift of speed, with an incom- 
parable air of Kf e and grace. She ran on till the smooth 
level of water in front of her bows seemed to sink down 
suddenly as if sucked away; and, with a strange, violent 
tremor of her mastheads she stopped, inclined her lofty 
spars a little, and lay still. She lay still on the reef, 
while the NeptuUy fetching a wide circle, continued at 
full speed up Spermonde Passage, heading for the town. 
She lay still, perfectly still, with something ill-omened 
and unnatural in her attitude. In an instant the subtle 
melancholy of things touched by decay had fallen on 
her in the sunshine; she was but a speck in the brilliant 
emptiness of space, already lonely, already desolate. 

"Hold him!" yelled a voice from the bridge. 

Jasper had started to run to his brig with a headlong 
impulse, as a man dashes forward to pull away with 
his hands a Uving, breathing, loved creature from the 
brink of destruction. "Hold him! Stick to him!" 
vociferated the lieutenant at the top of the bridge- 
ladder, while Jasper struggled madly without a word, 
only his head emerging from the heaving crowd of the 
Neptun^s seamen, who had flung themselves upon him 

obediently. "Hold I would not have that fellow 

drown himself for anything now!" 

Jasper ceased struggling. 

One by one they let go of him; they fell back gradually 
farther and farther, in attentive silence, leaving him 
standing unsupported in a widened, clear space, as if to 
give him plenty of room to fall after the struggle. He 
did not even sway perceptibly. Half an hour later, 
when the Neptun anchored in front of the town, he had 
not stirred yet, had moved neither head nor limb as 
much as a hair's breadth. Directly the rumble of the 
gunboat's cable had ceased, Heeinskirk came down 
heavily from the bridge. 


"Call a sampan," he said, in a gloomy tone, as he 
passed the sentry at the gangway, and then moved on 
slowly towards the spot where Jasper, the object of 
many awed glances, stood looking at the deck, as if 
lost in a brown study. Heemskirk came up dose, and 
stared at him thoughtfully, with his fingers over his 
lips. Here he was, the favoured vagabond, the only 
man to whom that infernal girl was likely to tell the 
story. But he would not find it funny. The story how 

Lieutenant Heemskirk No, he would not laugh at 

it. He looked as though he would never laugh at 
anything in his life. 

Suddenly Jasper looked up. His eyes, without any 
other expression but bewilderment, met those of 
Heemskirk, observant and sombre. 

"Gone on the reef!" he said, in a low, astounded 
tone. "On — the — reef!" he repeated still lower and 
as if attending inwardly to the birth of some awful and 
amazing sensation. 

"On the very top of high- water, spring tides," 
Heemskirk struck in, with a vindictive, exulting 
violence which flashed and expired. He paused, as if 
weary, fixing upon Jasper his arrogant eyes, over which 
secret disenchantment, the unavoidable shadow of all 
passion, seemed to pass like a saddening cloud. "On 
the very top," he repeated, rousing himself in fierce 
reaction to snatch his laced cap off his head with a 
horizontal, derisive flourish towards the gangway. 
"And no\{r you may go ashore to the courts, you damned 
Englishman!" he said. 


The affair of the brig Bonito was bound to cause a 
s^jisation in Makassar, the prettiest, and perhaps the 


cleanest-looking of all the towns in the Islands; which 
however knows few occasions for excitement. The 
** front," with its special population, was soon aware 
that something had happened. A steamer towing a 
sailing vessel had been observed far out to sea for some 
time, and when the steamer came in alone, leaving the 
other outside, attention was aroused. Why was that? 
Her masts only could be seen — with furled sails — 
remaining in the same place to the southward. And 
soon the rumour ran all along the crowded seashore 
street that there was a ship on Tamissa reef. That 
crowd interpreted the appearance correctly. Its cause 
was beyond their penetration, for who could associate 
a girl nine hundred miles away with the stranding of a 
ship on Tamissa reef, or look for the remote filiation of 
that event in the psychology of at least three people, 
even if one of them. Lieutenant Heemskirk, was at 
that very moment passing amongst them on his way 
to make his verbal report.? 

No; the minds on the "front" were not competent 
for that sort of investigation, but many hands there 
— brown hands, yellow hands, white hands — were raised 
to shade the eyes gazing out to sea. The rumour spread 
quickly. Chinese shopkeepers came to their doors, 
more than one white merchant, even, rose from his desk 
to go to the window. After all, a ship on Tamissa was 
not an everyday occurrence. And presently the rumour 
took a more definite shape. An English trader — de- 
tained on suspicion at sea by the Neptun — ^Heemskirk 
was towing him in to test a case, and by some strange 

Later on the name came out. "The Bonito — what! 
Impossible! Yes — yes, the Bonito, Look! You can 
see from here; only two masts. It's a brig. Didn't 
think that man would ever let himself be caught. 


Heemskirk's pretty smart, too. They say she's fitted 
out in her cabin like a gentleman's yacht. That Allen 
is a sort of gentleman too. An extravagant beggar." 

A young man entered smartly Messrs. Mesman 
Brothers' office on the "front," bubbling with some 
further information. 

"Oh, yes; that's the Bonito for certain! But you 
don't know the story I've heard just now. The fellow 
must have been feeding that river with firearms for 
the last year or two. Well, it seems he has grown so 
reckless from long impunity that he has actually dared 
to sell the very ship's rifles this time. It's a fact. The 
rifles are not on board. What impudence! Only, he 
didn't know that there was one of our warships on the 
coast. But those Englishmen are so impudent that 
perhaps he thought that nothing would be done to him 
for it. Our courts do let off these fellows too often, 
on some miserable excuse or other. But, at any rate, 
there's an end of the famous Bonito, I have just heard 
in the harbour-office that she must have gone on at the 
very top of high- water; and she is in ballast, too. No 
human power, they think, can move her from where 
she is. I only hope it is so. It would be fine to have 
the notorious Bonito stuck up there as a warning to 

Mr. J. Mesman, a colonial-born Dutchman, a kind, 
paternal old fellow, with a clean-shaven, quiet, hand- 
some face, and a head of fine iron-grey hair curling a 
little on his collar, did not say a word in defence of 
Jasper and the Bonito. He rose from his arm-chair 
suddenly. His face was visibly troubled. It had so 
happened that once, from a business talk of ways and 
means, island trade, money matters, and so on, Jasper 
had been led to open himself to him on the subject of 
Freya; and the excellent man, who had known old 


Nelson years before and even remembered something 
of Freya, was much astonished and amused by the 
unfolding of the tale. 

"Well, well, well! Nelson! Yes; of course. A 
very honest sort of man. And a little child with very 
fair hair. Oh, yes! I have a distinct recollection. 
And so she has grown into such a fine girl, so very 

determined, so very " And he laughed almost 

boisterously. "Mind, when you have happily eloped 
with your future wife. Captain Allen, you must come 
along this way, and we shall welcome her here. A 
little fair-headed child ! I remember. I remember." 

It was that knowledge which had brought trouble to 
his face at the first news of the wreck. He took up 
his hat. 

"Where are you going, Mr. Mesman.^" 

"I am going to look for Allen. I think he must be 
ashore. Does anybody know?" 

No one of those present knew. And Mr. Mesman 
went out on the "front" to make inquiries. 

The other part of the town, the part near the church 
and the fort, got its information in another way. The 
first thing disclosed to it was Jasper himself walking 
rapidly, as though he were pursued. And, as a matter 
of fact, a Chinaman, obviously a sampan man, was 
following him at the same headlong pace. Suddenly, 
while passing Orange House, Jasper swerved and went 
in, or, rather, rushed in, startling Gomez, the hotel 
clerk, very much. But a Chinaman beginning to make 
an unseemly noise at the door claimed the immediate 
attention of Gomez. His grievance was that the white 
man whom he had brought on shore from the gunboat 
had not paid him his boat-fare. He had pursued him 
so far, asking for it all the way. But the white man 
had taken no notice whatever of his just claim. Gomez 


satisfied the coolie with a few coppers, and then went 
to look for Jasper, whom he knew very well. He 
found him standing stiffly by a little round table. At 
the other end of the Verandah a few men sitting there 
had stopped talking, and were looking at him in silence. 
Two billiard-players, with cues in their hands, had 
come to the door of the billiard-room and stared, too. 

On Gomez coming up to him, Jasper raised one hand 
to point at his own throat. Gomez noted the some- 
what soiled state of his white clothes, then took one 
look at his face, and fled away to order the drink for 
which Jasper seemed to be asking. 

Where he wanted to go — ^for what purpose — where 
he, perhaps, only imagined himself to be going, when 
a sudden impulse or the sight of a familiar place had 
made him turn into Orange House — it is impossible to 
say. He was steadying himself lightly with the tips of 
his fingers on the little table. There were on that 
verandah two men whom he knew well personally, but 
his gaze roaming incessantly as though he were looking 
for a way of escape, passed and repassed over them 
without a sign of recognition. They, on their side, 
looking at him, doubted the evidence of their own eyes. 
It was not that his face was distorted. On the contrary^ 
it was still, it was set. But its expression, somehow, 
was unrecognisable. Can that be him? they wondered 
with awe. 

In his head there was a wild chaos of clear thoughts. 
Perfectly clear. It was this clearness which was so 
terrible in conjunction with the utter inability to lay 
hold of any single one of them all. He was saying to 
himself, or to them: "Steady, steady." A China boy 
appeared before him with a glass on a tray. He poured 
the drink down his throat, and rushed out. His dis- 
appeftl^ance removed the spell of wonder from the 


beholders. One of the men jumped up and moved 
quickly to that side of the verandah from which almost 
the whole of the roadstead could be seen. At the very 
moment when Jasper, issuing from the door of the 
Orange House, was passing under him in the street 
below, he cried to the others excitedly: 

"That was Allen right enough! But where is his 

Jasper heard these words with extraordinary loud- 
ness. The heavens rang with them, as if calling him 
to account; for those were the very words Freya would 
have to use. It was an annihilating question; it struck 
his consciousness like a thunderbolt and brought a 
sudden night upon the chaos of his thoughts even as 
he walked. He did not check his pace. He went on 
in the darkness for another three strides, and then 

The good Mesman had to push on as far as the 
hospital before he found him. The doctor there talked 
of a slight heatstroke. Nothing very much. Out in 
three days. ... It must be admitted that the 
doctor was right. In three days, Jasper Allen came out 
of the hospital and became visible to the town — very 
visible indeed — and remained so for quite a long time; 
long enough to become almost one of the sights of the 
place; long enough to become disregarded at last; 
long enough for the tale of his haunting visibility to be 
remembered in the islands to this day. 

The talk on the "front" and Jasper's appearance in 
the Orange House stand at the beginning of the famous 
Bonito case, and give a view of its two aspects — ^the 
practical and the psychological. The case for the 
courts and the case for compassion; that last terribly 
evident and yet obscure. 

It has, you must understand, remained obscure 


; , even for that friend of mine who wrote me the letter 
mentioned in the very first lines of this narrative. He 
was one of those in Mr. Mesman's oflSce, and accom- 
panied that gentleman in his search for Jasper. His 
letter described to me the two aspects and some of the 
episodes of the case. Heemskirk's attitude was that of 
deep thankfulness for not having lost his own ship, and 
that was all. Haze over the land was his explanation 
of having got so close to Tamissa reef. He saved his 
ship, and for the rest he did not care. As to the fat 

^ gunner, he deposed simply that he thought at the tin^e 
that he was acting for the best by letting go the to\^'- 
rope, but admitted that he was greatly confused by the 
suddenness of the emergency. 

As a matter of fact, he had acted on very precise 
instructions from Heemskirk, to whom through several 
years' service together in the East he had become a 
sort of devoted henchman. What was most amazing 

i ) in the detention of the Bonito was his story how; pro- 

! ^ ceeding to take possession of the firearms^ as ordered, 
he discovered that there were no firearms on board. 
All he found in the fore-cabin was an empty rack for 
the proper number of eighteen rifles, but of the rifles 

f themselves never a single one anywhere in the ship. 
The mate of the brig, who looked rather ill and behaved 
excitedly, as though he were perhaps a lunatic, wanted 

' him to believe that Captain Allen knew nothing of 
this; that it was he, the mate, who had recently sold 
these rifles in the dead of night to a certain person up 
the river. In proof of this story he produced a bag of 
silver dollars and pressed it on his, the gunner's, 
acceptance. Then, suddenly flinging it down on the 
deck, he beat his own head with both his fists and 
started heaping shocking curses upon his own soul for 

I , an ungrateful wretch not fit to live. 



All this the gunner reported at once to his com- 
manding officer. 

What Heemskirk intended by taking upon himself to 
detain the Bonito it is difficult to say, except that he 
meant to bring some trouble into the life of the man 
favoured by Freya. He had been looking at Jasper 
with a desire to strike that man of kisses and embraces 
to the earth. The question was: How could he do it 
without giving himself away? But the report of the 
gunner created a serious case enough. Yet Allen had 
friends — and who could tell whether he wouldn't some- 
how succeed in wriggling out of it? The idea of simply 
towing the brig so much compromised on to the reef 
came to him while he was listening to the fat gunner in 
his cabin. There was but little risk of being disapproved 
now. And it should be made to appear an accident. 

Going out on deck he had gloated upon his un- 
conscious victim with such a sinister roll of his eyes, 
such a queerly pursed mouth, that Jasper could not 
help smiling. And the lieutenant had gone on the 
bridge, saying to himself: 

"You wait! I shall spoil the taste of those sweet 
kisses for you. When you hear of Lieutenant Heems- 
kirk in the future that name won't bring a smile on 
your lips, I swear. You are delivered into my hands." 

And this possibility had come about without any 
planning, one could almost say naturally, as if events 
had mysteriously shaped themselves to fit the purposes 
of a dark passion. The most astute scheming could 
not have served Heemskirk better. It was given to 
him to taste a transcendental, an incredible perfection 
of vengeance; to strike a deadly blow into that hated 
person's heart, and to watch him afterwards walking 
about with the dagger in his breast. 

For that is what the state of Jasper amoimted to. ^ 




He moved, acted, weary-eyed, keen-faced, lank and 
restless, with brusque movements and fierce gestures; 
to he talked incessantly in a frenzied and fatigued voice, 
k but within himself he knew that nothing would ever 
an give him back the brig, just as nothing can heal a 
pierced heart. His soul, kept quiet in the stress of 
love by the unflinching Freya's influence, was like a 
still but overwound string. The shock had started 
it vibrating, and the string had snapped. He had 
waited for two years in a perfectly intoxicated con- 
fidence for a day that now would never come to a 
man disarmed for life by the loss of the brig, and, it 
seemed to him, made unfit for love to which he had no 
foothold to offer. 

Day after day he would traverse the length of the 
town, follow the coast, and, reaching the point of land 
opposite that part of the reef on which his brig lay 
ftranded, look steadily across the water at her beloved 
form, once the home of an exulting hope, and now, in 
her inclined, desolated immobility, towering above the 
lonely sea-horizon, a symbol of despair. 

The crew had left her in due course in her own boats 
which directly they reached the town were sequestrated 
by the harbour authorities. The vessel, too, was 
sequestrated pending proceedings; but these same 
authorities did not take the trouble to set a guard on 
board. For, indeed, what could move her from there? 
Nothing, unless a miracle; nothing, unless Jasper's 
eyes, fastened on her tensely for hours together, as 
though he hoped by the mere power of vision to draw 
her to his breast. 

All this story, read in my friend's very chatty letter, 
dismayed me not a little. But it was really appall- 
ing to reac! his relation of how Schultz, the mate, 
wejnt about everywhere affirming with desperate per- 


tinacity that it was he alone who had sold the rifles. 
"I stole them," he protested. Of course, no one would 
believe him. My friend himself did not believe him, 
though he, of course, admired this self-sacrifice. But a 
good many people thought it was going too far to make 
oneself out a thief for the sake of a friend. Only, it was 
such an obvious lie, too, that it did not matter, perhaps. 

I, who, in view of Schultz's psychology, knew how 
true that must be, admit that I was appalled. So 
this was how a perfidious destiny took advantage of a 
generous impulse! And I felt as though I were an ac- 
complice in this perfidy, since I did to a certain extent 
encourage Jasper. Yet I had warned him as well. 

"The man seemed to have gone crazy on this point,'* 
wrote my friend. "He went to Mesman with his story. 
He says that some rascally white man living amongst 
the natives up that river made him drunk with some 
gin one evening, and then jeered at him for never having 
any money. Then he, protesting to us that he was an « 
honest man and must be believed, described himself ^ 
as being a thief whenever he took a drop too much, 
and told us that he went on board and passed the rifles 
one by one without the slightest compunction to a 
canoe which came alongside that night, receiving ten 
dollars apiece for them. 

"Next day he was ill with shame and grief, but 
had not the courage to confess his lapse to his bene- 
factor. When the gunboat stopped the brig he felt 
ready to die with the apprehension of the consequences, 
and would have died happily, if he could have been 
able to bring the rifles back by the sacrifice of his life. 
He said nothing to Jasper, hoping that the brig would 
be released presently. When it turned out otherwise 
and his captain was detained on board the gunboat, 
be was ready to commit suicide from despair; only he 4 


thought it his duty to live in order to let the truth be 
known. *I am an honest man! I am an honest man!' 
he repeated, in a voice that brought tears to our eyes. 
'You must believe me when I tell you that I am a 
thief — a vile, low, cunning, sneaking thief as soon as 
IVe had a glass or two. Take me somewhere where I 
may tell the truth on oath.' 

"When we had at last convinced him that his story 
could be of no use to Jasper — ^for what Dutch court, 
having once got hold of an English trader, would accept 
such an explanation; and, indeed, how, when, where 
could one hope to find proofs of such a tale? — he made 
as if to tear his hair in handfuls, but, calming down, 
said: *Good-bye, then, gentlemen,' and went out of 
the room so crushed that he seemed hardly able to put 
one foot before the other. That very night he com- 
mitted suicide by cutting his throat in the house of a 
half-caste with whom he had been lodging since he 
came ashore from the wreck." 

That throat, I thought with a shudder, which could 
produce the tender, persuasive, manly, but fascinating 
voice which had aroused Jasper's ready compassion and 
had secured Freya's sympathy ! Who could ever have 
supposed such an end in store for the impossible, gentle 
Schultz, with his idiosyncrasy of naive pilfering, so 
absurdly straightforward that, even in the people who 
had suffered from it, it aroused nothing more than a sort 
of amused exasperation? He was really impossible. 
His lot evidently should have been a half-starved, 
mysterious, but by no means tragic existence as a mild- 
eyed, inoffensive beachcomber on the fringe of native 
life. There are occasions when the irony of fate, which 
some people profess to discover in the working out of 
our lives, wears the aspect of crude and savage jesting. 

I shook my bead over the manes pf Schultz, and wwt 


on with my friend's letter. It told me how the brig 
on the reef, looted by the natives from the coast villages, 
acquired gradually the lamentable aspect, the grey 
ghostliness of a wreck; while Jaspei", fading daily into 
a mere shadow of a man, strode brusquely all along the 
*' front" with horribly lively eyes and a faint, fixed smile 
on his lips, to spend the day on a lonely spit of sand 
looking eagerly at her, as though he had expected some 
shape on board to rise up and make some sort of sign 
to him over the decaying bulwarks. The Mesmans 
were taking care of him as far as it was possible. The 
Bonito case had been referred to Batavia, where no 
doubt it would fade away in a fog of oflScial papers. 
. . . It was heartrending to read all this. That 
active and zealous oflScer, Lieutenant Heemskirk, hii? 
air of sullen, darkly pained self-importance not light- 
ened by the approval of his action conveyed to him 
unoflScially, had gone on to take up his station in the 
Moluccas. . . . 

Then, at the end of the bulky, kindly meant epistle, 
dealing with the island news of half a year at least, my 
friend wrote: "A couple of months ago old Nelson 
turned up here, arriving by the mail-boat from Java. 
Came to see Mesman, it seems. A rather mysterious 
visit, and extraordinarily short, after coming all that 
way. He stayed just four days at the Orange House 
with apparently nothing in particular to do, and then 
caught the south-going steamer for the Straits. I 
remember people saying at one time that Allen was 
rather sweet on old Nelson's daughter, the girl that 
was brought up by Mrs. Harley and then went to live 
with him at the Seven Isles group. Surely you remem- 
ber old Nelson " 

Remember old Nelson ! Rather ! 

The letter went on to inform me further that old 


Nelson, at least, remembered me, since some time after 
his flying visit to Makassar he had written to the 
Mesmans asking for my address in London. 

That old Nelson (or Nielsen), the note of whose 
personality was a profound, echoless irresponsiveness 
to everything around him, should wish to write, or find 
anything to write about to anybody, was in itself a 
cause for no small wonder.' And to me, of all people! 
I waited with uneasy impatience for whatever disclosure 
could come from that natujrally benighted intelhgence, 
but my impatience had time to wear out before my eyes 
beheld old Nelson's trembling, painfully formed hand- 
writing, senile and childish at the same time, on an 
envelope bearing a penny stamp and the postal mark of 
the Notting Hill office. I delayed opening it in order to 
pay the tribute of astonishment due to the event by 
flinging my hands above my head. So he had come 
home to England, to be definitely Nelson; or else was 
on his way home to Denmark, where he would revert 
for ever to his original Nielsen! But old Nelson (or 
Nielsen) out of the tropics seemed unthinkable. And 
yet he was there, asking me to call. 

His address was at a boarding-house in one of those 
Bayswater squares, once of leisure, which nowadays are 
reduced to earning their living. Somebody had rec- 
ommended him there. I started to call on him on one 
of those January days in London, one of those wintry 
days composed of the four devilish elements, cold, wet, 
mud, and grime, combined with a particular stickiness 
of atmosphere that clings like an unclean garment to 
one's very soul. Yet on approaching his abode I saw, 
like a flicker far behind the soiled veil of the four 
elements, the wearisome and splendid glitter of a blue 
sea with the Seven Islets like minute specks swimming 
in my eye, the high red roof of the bungalow crowning 


the very smallest of them all. This visual reminiscence 
was profcundly disturbing. I knocked at the door 
with a faltering hand. 

Old Nelson (or Nielsen) got up from the table at 
which he was sitting with a shabby pocket-book full 
of papers before him. He took off his spectacles before 
shaking hands. For a moment neither of us said a 
word; then, noticing me looking round somewhat ex- 
pectantly, he murmured some words, of which I caught 
only "daughter" and ''Hongkong," cast his eyes down 
and sighed. 

His moustache, sticking all ways out, as of yore, was 
quite white now. His old cheeks were softly rounded, 
with some colour in them; strangely enough, that 
something childlike always noticeable in the general 
contour of his physiognomy had become much more 
marked. Like his handwriting, he looked childish and 
senile. He showed his age most in his unintelligently 
furrowed, anxious forehead and in his round, innocent 
eyes, which appeared to me weak and blinking and 
watery; or was it that they were full of tears? . . . 

To discover old Nelson fully informed upon any 
matter whatever was a new experience. And after the 
first awkwardness had worn off he talked freely, with, 
now and then, a question to start him going whenever he 
lapsed into silence, which he would do suddenly, clasp- 
ing his hands on his waistcoat in an attitude which 
would recall to me the east verandah, where he used 
to sit talking quietly and puffing out his cheeks in what 
seemed now old, very old days. He talked in a reason- 
able, somewhat anxious tone. 

"No, no. We did not know anything for weeks. 
Out of the way like that, we couldn't, of course. No 
mail service to the Seven Isles. But one day I ran over 
to Banka in my big sailing-boat to see whether there 


were any letters, and saw a Dutch paper. But it 
looked only like a bit of marine news: English brig 
Bonito gone ashore outside Makassar roads. That was 
all. I took the paper home, with me and showed it to 
her. T will never forgive him!' she cries with her old 
spirit. *My dear,' I said, *you ^^e a sensible girl. 
The best man may lose a ship. But what about your 
health?' I was beginning to be frightened at her 
looks. She would not let me talk even of going to 
Singapore before. But, really, such a sensible girl 
couldn't keep on objecting for ever. 'Do what you 
like, papa,' she says. Rather a job, that. Had to 
catch a steamer at sea, but I got her over all right. 
There, doctors, of course. Fever. Anaemia. Put her 
to bed. Two or three women very kind to her. Natur- 
ally in our papers the whole story came out before long. 
She reads it to the end, lying on the couch; then hands 
the newspaper back to me, whispers 'Heemskirk,' and 
goes oflf into a faint." 

He blinked at me for quite a long time, his eyes 
running full of tears again. 

"Next day," he began, without any emotion in his 
voice, "she felt stronger, and we had a long talk. She 
told me everything." 

Here old Nelson, with his eyes cast down, gave me 
the whole story of the Heemskirk episode in Freya's 
words; then went on in his rather jerky utterance, and 
looking up innocently : 

***My dear,' I said, ^yon have behaved in the main 
like a sensible girl.' T have been horrid,' she cries, 
*and he is breaking his heart over there.' Well, she 
was too sensible not to see she wasn't in a state to 
travel. But I went. She told me to go. She was 
being looked after very well. Ansemia. Getting better 
they said."